Skip to main content

Full text of "The Works of Leonard Merrick: The actor-manager"

See other formats

This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on Hbrary shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google as part of a project 
to make the world's books discoverable online. 

It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject 
to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired. Whether a book is in the public domain may vary country to country. Public domain books 
are our gateways to the past, representing a wealth of history, culture and knowledge that's often difficult to discover. 

Marks, notations and other marginalia present in the original volume will appear in this file - a reminder of this book's long journey from the 
publisher to a library and finally to you. 

Usage guidelines 

Google is proud to partner with libraries to digitize public domain materials and make them widely accessible. Public domain books belong to the 
public and we are merely their custodians. Nevertheless, this work is expensive, so in order to keep providing this resource, we have taken steps to 
prevent abuse by commercial parties, including placing technical restrictions on automated querying. 

We also ask that you: 

+ Make non- commercial use of the files We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for 
personal, non-commercial purposes. 

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort to Google's system: If you are conducting research on machine 
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the 
use of public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help. 

+ Maintain attribution The Google "watermark" you see on each file is essential for informing people about this project and helping them find 
additional materials through Google Book Search. Please do not remove it. 

+ Keep it legal Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just 
because we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States, that the work is also in the public domain for users in other 
countries. Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of 
any specific book is allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Google Book Search means it can be used in any manner 
anywhere in the world. Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe. 

About Google Book Search 

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and to make it universally accessible and useful. Google Book Search helps readers 
discover the world's books while helping authors and publishers reach new audiences. You can search through the full text of this book on the web 

at http : //books . google . com/| 

Digitized by 


Digitized by 


Digitized by 


Digitized by 


Digitized by 


Digitized by 


The Works of Leonard Merrick 


Digitized by 


The Works of 

an Introduction by Sm J. M. Babbie. 

With an Introduction by Sm William Bobebt- 



duction by H. 6. Wsuik 

an Introduction by Sib Abthttb Pinkbo. 

other Stories. With an Introduction by W. J. 

THE WORLDLINGS. With an Introduction by 


THE ACTORpMANAGER. With an Introduction 

by W. D. BawmujL 
CYNTHIA. With an Intradactkin by BiAUBics 

ONE MAN'S VIEW. With an Introduction by 

Gbanville Babxbil 
THE MAN WHO WAS GOOD. With an Intro- 

duction by J. K. PsofiBBBo. 

Introduction by A. Neil Ltons. 
THE HOUSE OF LYNCH. With an Introduc- 
tion by G. K. Chebtebton. 
WHILE PARIS LAUGHED: Bedyg Pbankb and 

Pabsionb op the Poet Tbicotbin. 


Digitized by 









■ -Digitized by 


CopmoBi; 1012, 


AU Rigkii Ruer9§d 





H 1936 L 


•fttotad In the Ualtad Smtas of AnMriai 

Digitized by 




Anglo-Saxon fiction, either in its English or 
in its American condition, is not so rich in form 
that one who feels its penmy can pass any excep- 
tion by, and not dread coming to actual want. 
A keen/ perhaps a quivering, sense of this, was 
what made me, in my first acquaintance with the 
novels of Mr. Leonard Merrick, resolve to share 
with the public my pleasure in their singular 
shapeliness. No doubt, a great many of our 
short stories have form; but here it is a question 
^ of novels, and not of short stories. In short 
^ stories, it is rather difficult not to have form; in 
\j novels, it is so difficult that I can think of no 
^ recent fictionist of his race or nation who can 
vi quite match with Mr. Merrick in that excellence. 
^ This will seem great praise, possibly too great, 
^ to the few who have a sense of such excellence; 
t but it will probably be without real meaning to 
]^ most, though our public might very well enjoy 
form if it could once be made to imagine it. In 
^ order to this end, we should have first to define 
^ what form was, but form is one of those elusive 
^ things which you can feel much better than you 
can say; to define it would be like defining charm 

Digitized by 



in a woman, or poetry in a verse. Possibly, in 
order to enforce my point, I should have to bid 
the reader take almost any novel of Mr. Mer- 
rick's and read it; for then he would know what 
form was. Possibly, this is the conclusion to 
which I must come now, but I do not deny that 
this would be what is called ''begging the ques- 

As to the world which this excellent form 
embodies, it may be said, first, that every writer 
of fiction creates the world where his characters 
live. Of course, if he is an artist, it is vital to 
him to believe he is representing the world where 
he lives himself; and in a certain measure he is 
doing so, but he is always giving their habitat 
stricter limits than his own. One of the con- 
ditions of every art is that its created world 
must be a microcosm; even if it is not avowedly 
a fragment, the portrait it paints of life is a 
miniature where everything but the essentials are 
left out. If its eflFects are wisely meditated, it 
will sometimes show that the essentials are the 
little things and not the large things. The scene 
does not matter; the quality or station of the 
actors in it does not count; nothing matters or 
counts but the eflFect of reality. It is a very 
narrow world Mr. Merrick deals with, and of 
events so few that it is wonderful how con- 

Digitized by 



tinually he provokes the reader's curiosity and 
holds his interest, though for the young and kind, 
or for the old and wise, it is a world which will 
always have a glamour, will be misted in an 
illusion such as wraps the persons whom its 
people are engaged in representing, either in the 
novel or in the drama. In other terms, and I 
hope simpler terms, his story is commonly the 
story of obscure talent struggling to the light in 
those very uncertain avenues to distinction and 
prosperity; and he contrives to vary it only by 
the different phases of their failure or success, 
which is always the same sort of failure and 
success. I do not know why the events should 
be of more appreciable human concern than com- 
parable events in the lives of rising or falling 
painters, sculptors anfl architects, who should 
equally appeal in their like quality of artists. 
But it is certain that we somehow feel an enchant- 
ment in the career of the artists who create 
characters in fiction, or represent them in the 
theatre, which we do not feel in the careers of 
those other artists. It may be that this is because 
we live longer with their creations or represen- 
tations, and therefore are better acquaintance or 
closer friends with the creators. You cannot 
linger two or three days on the details of a 
picture or a statue or a building, as you can on 

Digitized by 



those of a novel, or even three hours, as you can 
on those of a play; and you cannot know them so 
well that you long to know the author or actor, 
and attribute to him all sorts of personal interest, 
which perhaps experience would not realize in 
him. In any case, it is certain that, since fiction 
ceased to concern itself solely with kings and 
princes, or even with the nobility and gentry, it 
has found nothing of such sovereign effect with 
the reader as the aspirations and adventures of 
people, the younger the people the better, trying 
to get past the publisher or the manager into the 
light of the public square. These at present 
share the sort of "pull" which the pirate and the 
robber, the seducer and the seduced, the pick- 
pocket and the pauper, the bankrupt, the rightful 
heir, the good and the bad trades-unionist, the 
muscular Christian, the burglar and the detec- 
tive, all once enjoyed in turn, and now enjoy no 
longer, at least with the polite reader; and it 
ought to be fortimate for Mr. Merrick that his 
novels are mainly concerned with them in the 
hour of their surpassing attractiveness. I have, 
of course, no belief that he chose them because 
of their pull; it is much more probable that, in 
the strange way these things come about, he was 
chosen by them because of his personal intimacy 
with their experiences. It is scarcely pertinent 

Digitized by 



to conjecture that the material of his fiction, out 
of which he has shaped its persons and events, 
is employed at first hand. A much more impor- 
tant fact is that he is always and instinctively 
artist enough to employ it for the stuff it is, and 
that he has not attempted, so far as I can make 
out, to pass off any clay image of his fabrication 
for a statue of pure gold, or even of gilded 
bronze. No squalor of that world of his is 
blinked, and we learn to trust him, not perhaps 
quite implicitly, for a faithful report of the world 
he knows so well, but implicitly enough, because 
he seems to have no question as to his function 
in regard to it. He is quite as honest as a Latin 
or a Slav would be in his place, and never as 
dishonest as some other Anglo-Saxon might be. 

He is not so much in the bonds of superstition 
concerning passion as most novelists, and there- 
fore he is not of the inferior novelists; he ranks 
himself with the great ones in that. He has the 
courage to own that certain veritable passions 
die long before those who have known them are 
dead. Apparently, he has seen this happen in 
the world among real men and women, and he 
portrays the fact as he has seen it happen. His 
fidelity cannot recommend him to the "world that 
loves a lover** so much that it will not allow that 
he can ever cease to be a lover; but it ought to 

Digitized by 



make him friends with the few who love truth 
better even than lovers. At any rate, it is the 
event in several of his books, in perhaps the best 
of them, though sometimes he sacrifices to the 
false god also, and has lovers go on loving with a 
constancy which ought to have made him a wider 
public than I am afraid he has. 

Of the two arch-enemies of love, prosperity 
and adversity, he makes the oftener study of 
adversity. There is a great deal of grim adversity 
in his books, which sometimes remains adversity 
to the end, but also sometimes puts oflF its frown. 
It is the more depressing when it becomes or 
remains the atmosphere of that ambition which 
seeks fruition in the successes of the theatre. If 
we are to believe him, and somehow Mr. Merrick 
mostly makes you believe him, the poor creatures, 
usuaUy poor women creatures, who are trying 
to get upon the stage, are almost without number, 
and certainly outnumber the struggling jour- 
nalists and authors a hundred to one. The 
spectacles of their humility and humiliation, of 
their meek endeavours and cruel defeats, are of 
such frequent recurrence in his novels and tales 
that, after a little knowledge of them, one ap- 
proaches the scene with an expectation of heart- 
ache through which nothing short of the mastery 
dealing with them would support one. In the 

Digitized by 



monotony of the event, it is very remarkable 
how he distinguishes and characterizes the dif- 
ferent children of adversity, especially the daugh- 
ters. They are commonly alike in their adversity, 
but they are individual in their way of experienc- 
ing it. In fact, in an age of intensely feminized 
fiction, he is one of the first of those who know 
how to catch the likenesses, to the last fleeting 
expression, of women; and especially women of 
the theatre. Probably, these are not essentially 
diflFerent from other women, but they have an 
evolution through their environment which no 
one else seems to have studied so well. Some- 
times they are good women and sometimes they 
are bad, but they are so from a temperament 
diflFerently a£Fected by their errant and public 
life, their starved or surfeited vanity, their craze 
for change and variety, and they keep a sim- 
plicity, a singleness, in their selfishness and 
depravity, such as diflFerences them from women 
bred amidst the artificialities of the world on the 
other side of the footlights. It would be easy 
to name a score of them from his pages, but it is 
sufficient to name Blanche Ellerton in The 
Actor-Manager as a supreme type; Nature 
meant her for the theatre only. 

There is no perceptible mechanism in the story 
of The Actor-Manager, in every way the best of 

Digitized by 



Mr, Merrick's stories so far as I know them. At 
aU moments of it you feel that it happened, and 
that the people in it are alive, with a life of human 
probabilities beyond it. I can recall no English 
novel in which the study of temperament and 
character is carried farther or deeper, allowing 
for what the people are, and I do not remember 
a false or mistaken line or colour in it. For any- 
thing to equal it, we must go to the Slavs, in such 
triimiphs of their naturalness as Tourgu^nieflTs 
Smoke, or the society passages of Tolstoy's JFor 
and Peace. The French stories are conventional 
in their naturalism beside it; perhaps a Spaniard 
like 6ald6s has done work of equal fineness. It 
is not alone in Royce Oliphant, with the stress 
of his hereditary conscience, or in Blanche EUer- 
ton, depraved both by her artistry and by her 
ambition, that the author convinces; Otho Fair- 
bairn, who becomes the ''scoundrel" that Blanche 
not less deliberately than hysterically makes him 
for his money, and Alma King, who is as good 
an artist as Blanche and yet a good woman, and 
Blanche's mother whose sentimental novelettes 
support her contemptuous husband in the pro- 
duction of his real but unmerchantable master- 
pieces, and Blanche's plain sister with her famine 
for a little love, a little admiration from men, 
are aU in their several ways entirely lifelike. The 

Digitized by 



theatre itself , which began as a theatre of art, and 
ended as a theatre of profit, has abnost a human 
appeal in its tragedy, as if it were a sentient 
organism, with a heart to be broken and a soul 
to be lost. Nobody who is not inevitably bad 
is very bad; in the book the world is the world 
we live in. 

Why, then, is not this masterly novelist a 
master universally recognized and accepted? 
That is something I have asked myself more than 
once, especiaUy in reading the criticisms of his 
several books, not one of which has lacked the 
praise of some critic qualified to carry conviction 
of its merit. Perhaps the secret is that the stories 
are almost always very unhappy. There is no 
consolation in their tragedy; they do not even 
"raise a noble teiTor," such as was once the sup- 
posed business of tragedy. Upon the whole, they 
leave you feeling mean, feeling retroactively 
capable of the shabby things which have been 
done in them. Another secret may be that, when 
the poverty which haunts them is relieved in this 
case or that, you are left with a sense of the 
vast poverty still remaining in the world; if a 
struggler is given a chance to get his breath, 
the great struggle of life goes on. StiU another 
secret may be that there is no fine world, no 
great world, in the books; we scarcely recaU a 

Digitized by 



person of title in any of them, and people who 
like to associate with the rich or great, when they 
are "taken out of themselves," have not the com- 
pany of so much as one high-bom villain, one 
corrupt grande dame. Socially it is not "good 
company" we find ourselves in, and morally it 
is not even the "best company" as Jane Austen 
calls it; and yet it is somehow consoling, some- 
how encouraging to have known such a good 
and clever man as Royce Oliphant, such a good 
yet gifted woman as Alma King, even such a 
kind wrong-doing soul as Otho Fairbaim, or 
such a gentle, modest, unselfish creature as the 
mother of Blanche EUerton, earning her hus- 
band's bread by writing the popular novelettes 
which enable him to write his unpopular novels 
and despise her trash on a full stomach. Very 
likely Mr. Merrick may have had his moments 
of consciously contriving the story in The Actor- 
Manager and of actuating his characters in con- 
formity with a preconceived plan, but he does 
not suflFer his readers to share these humiliating 
moments. For all they know, the things hap- 
pened from the nature of the characters in the 
given circmnstances with no apparent agency 
of his. 


Digitized by 



Digitized by 


Digitized by 




There used to be, in the neighbourhood of the 
Museum, an eating-house, of which the feature 
was a three-course dinner for sixpence. On a 
board in the doorway was inscribed "First-class 
Room Upstairs," and this was well worth visit- 
ing. Its true attraction, however, did not lie in 
its steaming soup, its colonial meat, nor its im- 
pregnable pastry, but in the study of its patrons. 
Eschewing the ground-floor, where, to the casual 
observer, the dirt of the diners obscured their 
interest, one found oneself among pale-faced 
girls in sage-green frocks of eccentric pattern, 
among young men with bilious bows and abun- 
dant hair. These were "art-students" — to use 
the comprehensive term by which the students 
of painting describe themselves — the fact was 
evident at a glance, before scrutiny discovered 
the mark of the Roman Gallery in charcoal on 
their fingers. A greasy coat, white at the left 
elbowy and frayed under the ri^t cu£f» confirmed 


Digitized by 



the impression that its wearer was a hack from 
the Reading Room. Sometimes a reporter and 
his note-book might be recognised ; more frequent 
was the sight of a violin-case, or a roll of songs. 
Occasionally a denizen of the foreign quarter 
behind Tottenham Court Road stumbled upon 
the establishment — ^to sigh for the forbidden 
cigarette, and renew his allegiance to the restau- 
rants of Charlotte Street; now and again a stray 
shop-girl out of employment, or an excursionist 
up for the day, gaped at the costumes of the com- 
pany — approving the cuisine and disdaining the 
clientele. A little woman with spectacles and 
close-cropped hair suggested mathematics; and 
a Pole, whose unkempt locks swept the grime on 
his velvet collar, left one in doubt whether to 
attribute to him operas or infernal machines. 

On a certain winter afternoon, the room, 
usually so full, was deserted save by two persons. 
One was a man of about thirty; the other was a 
girl, five or six years younger. Though they 
had often noticed each other there, they were 
not acquaintances, and to-day each was at once 
interested and a shade embarrassed by the other's 
presence. When the waitress reappeared with 
pudding, the silence between them had not been 
broken, but the man, stealing another glance, 
saw that the girl was crying. 

Digitized by 



They were seated close together; the room 
contained three long tables, but two of them were 
bare, and the cloth extended but half-way down 
the third. The preparations for custom had been 
slight to-day at the eating-house, and of aU its 
struggling frequenters, of all its hopeful and its 
hopeless band, only these two apparently had 
had nowhere else to go. The attendant, who had 
returned to her chair behind the counter, con- 
templated them with an air of compassionate 
protest. The date was December the twenty- 

He looked quickly away, out at the dreary 
street. He understood the tears that stood in 
his companion's eyes — if he had been a woman, 
his mood would have required the same relief. 
That, though, was not his thought; the thought 
of which he was suddenly conscious was that 
he wished the girl and he knew each other. He 
was alone, and loneliness had never ached more 
strongly in him. In fancy he had been reliving 
his life, lingering at the milestones, and scenting 
afresh the fragrance of mornings passed away. 
He remembered Christmas at the Vicarage — ^had 
seen himself a child again in his father's church. 
The old man's face and white hair above the 
pulpit, and the laurel and crimson berries round 
the font, fiiashed close — seemed close enough for 

Digitized by 



him to clasp them. He remembered his scholar- 
ship, his joy, the moment when his father's lips 
had trembled at the news; reviewed his boyhood 
at Harrow, and his confidence at Oxford. It 
was to be the Chmx^h then for him, too. He 
recalled the first touch of indecision; the time 
when the cry of art within him became insistent; 
the night when he annomiced the change in his 
intentions. Under the snow in the cemetery his 
father lay now, beyond the reach of disappoint- 
ments. Thank Grod the bond between them had 
never weakened 1 The long battle which was still 
miwon had been mentally refought since his 
meagre breakfast; and the sense of solitariness, 
the longing for sympathy was acute as he stared 
through the window at the empty street. 

He spoke a second later: 

"We're spared the outrage of a Christmas 
pudding made fashionable in a mould here. If 
a Christmas plum-pudding's not as round as a 
cannon-ball, it isn't a Christmas plum-pudding." 

"No," she said. She sought for a continuation. 
"And it ought to be very big," she added. 

"With a sprig of holly and blue flames." 

Momentarily he saw the Vicarage again. If 
Christmas were good for nothing else, it would 
serve to remind us we were once innocent and 
happy, and didn't know it; for eveiyone associ- 

Digitized by 



ates Christmas more vividly with his own child- 
hood than with Christ's. The girl did not reply 
further; she looked down at her plate. The man 
looked wistfully at the girl; and the attendant, 
with a smothered yawn, looked at the clock. 

"I think IVe seen you here before," said 
Oliphant. "I wonder they're open to-day. I 
was half afraid I shouldn't get any dinner." 

"It was the same with me — I'm only in lodg- 
ings, and " She shivered, and pinned her 

jacket more closely across her chest. 

"Are you cold?" 

"The fire isn't very Christmassy, is it? Do 
you know what I'm going to do when I get up? 
I'm going to walk round the Squares and look 
into all the dining-rooms where hateful rich 
people are having port and walnuts, and toasting 
themselves before the most expensive coaL I 
shall loathe them violently." 

"And then?" said Oliphant, smiling. 


"And then?" 

"I shaD howL" 

Though he had not failed to notice her previ- 
ously, he was surprised that he had not noticed 
her more. He regarded her with rising interest, 
even with gratitude. Her face, though lacking 
in colour, had a beauty which was accentuated 

Digitized by 



by the style in which the dark hair was worn — 
parted in the centre, and waving loosely over her 
brow and ears. Her eyes at first sight had looked 
black, but he saw now that they were grey. 

"My programme 'U be as lively as yours," he 

"You've nowhere to go either?" 

"Oh, IVe a large selection of thoroughfares; 
and I can go home too. There's no place like 
home, and it's often very fortunate." 

"What do you do?" she asked. 

"I'm an actor." 

"Are you? I shouldn't have guessed it. I'm 
an actress." 

"I wondered if you were; I was sure you acted 
or sang. Are you playing anywhere?" 

"I was in the Independent Theatre last month 
— did you go? I haven't done anjrthing since 
then; it's such a bad time of the year. I was 
very fortunate to be in the Independent; I was 
playing at Ealing, and the Margetsons saw me 
and o£Fered me the engagement. I understudied 
Mrs. Margetson. If I could have played 
Hilda I" 

"Oh, Ibsen attracts you?" 

"Well, I should like to play Hilda Wangel in 
Th^ Master BuUder. I should like to play Hilda; 
and I long to play Juliet, and — oh, I who am 

Digitized by 



nobody, how I should love to create Lucy Feverel 
on the stage!" 

"You read Meredith?" 

"Because I'm an obscure actress can't I read? 
Oh, I know, I'm not surprised you stared! But 
I might have stared at you for knowing it was 
Meredith. Lucy! She's the nineteenth-century 
JuUet, isn't she? Are you one of the enemies of 
the Independent, or one of the people who care 
nothing about it?" 

"Neither," he said. "The greatest work will 
never appeal to the greatest number. How 
should it?" 

"That's discouraging!" She rested her elbows 
on the cloth — ^her fingers interlaced, and sup- 
porting her chin — ^her eyes lifted to him atten- 

"I mean the greatest creative work. Does an 
actor or an actress create? You used the word, 
but I'm afraid we don't. The best of us interpret 
— like Paderewski, Sarasate; Wagner creates. 
Shakespeare created Hamlet; the actor who 
plays the part tries to interpret his intention. 
Need he be any the less an artist because the 
nature of his art demands collaboration?" 

"His collaborators aren't all Shakespeares," 
she said; "nor Ibsens." 

"Oh, there may be more brains in the actor 

Digitized by 



than in the part 1 What banalities are considered 
seriously because he gives them life I" 

"But good work is knocking at the stage 
doors 1" she cried; "why isn't it admitted? Why 
does the actor put the banalities on? When he 
is his own manager, why not produce things that 
are worthy of him?" 

"Because the best only appeals to the minority, 
as I say. If you want a proof of it, remember 
that England claims the greatest dramatic poet 
the world has known, and then look down the 
list of the travelling companies — ^see how many 
are playing his work I You know I — ^it's appall- 
ing. Managers wouldn't pay fees for trash, 
instead of taking poetry for nothing, if the 
poetry drew as well; you can be quite sure of 
that ; for their ambition is to make money." 

"Is it yours?" she asked impatiently. "If you 
were an actor-manager, what would you pro- 

The attendant folded her novelette, rose, and 
came round to the table. 

"It's shuttin' up time, please," she said; "we're 
only open to four o'clock to-day." She tore out 
two vouchers, and picked up the coins. 

"I wish I had spoken to you over the soup," 
said Oliphant, watching the girl put on her 

Digitized by 



She smiled. ''I was praying you wouldn't 
speak at all — I felt so miserable. But I am glad 
you did. Good-bye." 

''Good-bye/' he said; and she preceded him 
down the stairs. "I won't wish you *a merry 
Christmas/ *' he added, as they reached the foot, 
"but I hope it won't be too wretched. Are you 
going to take that walk and loathe them 

"I think so — ^it'U be something to do." 

She seemed undecided whether to extend her 
hand ; then made as if to offer it. 

"You wouldn't let me come with you?" he said 
hesitatingly; "I " 

"I think not," she said ; "thanks." 

They stood on the desolate pavement, looking 
away from each other. The dayhght was slowly 
fading, and on the pallor a yellow gas-lamp leapt 
into the perspective. 

"You don't mind my having asked you? I — I 
meant no harm." 

"No, I understand," she said; "but " 

"It would lessen the awfulness for half an 
hour," pleaded OUphant. "I've no one to talk 
to, IVe nothing to read, and it'd be a charity. 
Can't you imagine we've been introduced? Do 
letme! . . . Will you?" 

Digitized by 



She wavered for an instant. "For half an hour 
then," she responded. "Come !'* 

"Thank you very much. Which way do we 


"Oh, the loneliness of London!" exclaimed the 
girl as they crossed the road; "the loneliness of 
itr' She glanced at him and sighed. "This is 
very improbable," she remarked. 

"Probabilities aren't pleasing," said Oliphant. 
"The greatest probability is that *the part is 
already cast' !" 

"It's a hard profession if one has no influence. 
Have you been in town?" 

"I've just got my first engagement here. We 
open in about a fortnight. The Queen's. I speak 
twelve lines. On tour I've been playing good 

"How dreadful I What you must feel!" 

"I do. But I couldn't endure the provinces 
for ever. I want to get on; I ought to get on — 
I've worked so hard, and hoped so long; it's 
time I did something. If I'm playing in Lon- 
don, a chance may be easier to find — in the com- 
panies on tour one is buried. Don't you think 

"I've played several small parts in London," 
she said, "but they have led to no better chance 
for me. Oh, I'm discouraged! I haven't strug- 

Digitized by 



gled so long as you, I daresay; but a girFs 
weaker, and I'm discouraged." 

"Are you quite alone?" 

She nodded. "1 lost my mother last year; 

she was all I had. When she died, it " Her 

voice quivered, and they strolled on in silence. 
"I think it made it crueller," she continued softly, 
"to know that she thought I'd get on better with- 
out her, because — because it was my joy to help 
her as much as I could while she lived." 

"I envy you!" said Oliphant; "all I did was 
to cause my father pain." 

"Didn't he want you to be an actor; is that 
what you mean? Did you quarrel?" 

"He didn't quarrel with me, but he was dis- 
appointed. And he was the best father a man 
ever had." 

"I like you for saying that," she answered. 
"What did he want you to be?" 

"What he was himself — a clergyman." 

"Really?" she said with surprise; "and you felt 
you couldn't?" 

"I wanted to, once. It was as I grew older 
that my views changed. I don't mean religious 
views or anything like that — I simply felt that 
my temperament forbade it and that the stage 
was the only career possible for me. You asked 
me in there what I'd do if I were an actor- 

Digitized by 



manager. I went into the profession because I 
loved it; because it seemed to me the stage might 
teach as high a lesson as the pulpit — ^that it might 
be the loudest, greatest voice in all the world. 
More powerful than the Church, because the 
Church is precept and the stage is action; more 
intimate than the sister-arts, because it speaks in 
a simpler tongue. And it should be art; but art 
— art is revelation I Shall I tell you what my 
dream is?" 

"Yes," said the girl earnestly, "do; tell me 
your dream I" 

Instinctively they had paused. They were by 
the pillar-box at the gates of the British Museum. 
In the immense quietude theirs were the only 
human figures; the London that gorged, and the 
London that starved, were both out of view. 

"I see," he said, "a small theatre, and at this 
theatre the one literary medium for the drama 
isn't held to be the baldest prose; poetry is neither 
divorced from this stage, nor limited to Shake- 
speare — it's thought possible to test the work 
of a poet who has not had centiuies of advertis- 
ing! But the realist is as welcome as the poet; 
I should think he was welcome! Only the plays 
are literature, and they are real plays. The men 
and women live! They aren't puppets pulled 
by inexorable strings through four acts to a 

Digitized by 



conventional end. Reward for virtue and pun- 
ishment for vice are shown to exist in the soul 
and not in material success and failure. To 
depict the world as a school, where virtue wins 
the prize, and vice gets a flogging, is immoral. 
The parts around me aren't written down to 
bring my part into greater prominence. The 
dramatist who comes to me is free — free to be 
true to his convictions and his art; free to choose 
his characters where he will, and to trace their 
legitimate development; free to make the lost' 
woman noble, and the *godly' woman vile — for 
such things are! — and the love within him for 
all humanity would point the moral when it 
needed pointing. The real playwright is your 
real optimist — your real Christ-follower — for he 
shows that sin doesn't mean damnation, and that 
there is redemption for the pure in heart. The 
one command laid upon him is to see things 
nobly — ^that his deeper vision shall help the 
crowd. Where shall I find such writers? There 
are dramatists not knovm, and well-known 
writers who could write much better. By degrees 
I gather round me a band of — of the dmes hien 

fUes, the — ^how shall I say it? — the " 

"The elect I" she put in rapidly; "yes, I under- 
stand French. It would be a good name for the 
house— The Elect 1" 

Digitized by 




t!. "I produce men who don't work for the stage 

iV now, or whose manuscripts are considered hope- 
less because they don't appeal to the largest 
public. With a small theatre I could afford to 
depend upon the educated minority. There is a 
Press waiting for such an endeavour, and, though 
at first the notices are bigger than the returns, 
they gradually win for me the recognition of 
all the public that I'm addressing. Believe me 
that public is large enough to keep my house 
open all the year round. Miss er — ^my com- 
panion in misfortune, my theatre becomes a 
force in intellectual London; I'm famous, happy, 
I have fulfilled my ambition, I'm the manager 
of the — the Theatre Royal Day-dream. • . . I've 
been keeping you standing still in the cold; for- 
give me I" 

She caught her breath. "You're an artist," 
she said, "I believe you'll succeed. This is one 
of the moments when I think that to be an artist 
and fail, is something." 

"We are both artists," he said; "The Two 
Bohemians I" 

"I haven't told you my name. It's Alma 

"I'm so glad we met, Miss King. Mine's 
Royce Oliphant. You see the benefit of giving 
a thing a trial — ^we couldn't know each other 

Digitized by 



better if the formal introduction had taken place. 
Now could we?" 

''Look I" she murmured, halting again in two 
or three minutes. 

He glanced at the window that she indicated. 
"Ah, the opportunity for the violent loath- 

"No, only for the imagination after aU. How 
torpid they look after their dinner I But it's 
cosy in the firelight, isn't it? I wonder what 
they do — one can't see their features? Trade, of 
course. Trade in saddlebag armchairs digests 
the turkey, and art in the streets builds castles 
in the air. Observe the adipose children !" 

"Their figures aren't distinguishable." 

"I feel they're adipose — I told you this was 
an exercise of the imagination. Oh, the servant 
has come to pull the blinds down! The enter- 
tainment is over. I don't think we'll look in 
anywhere else — other people's comfort is very 

They waited there, by the area railings, in 
Bedford Square, nevertheless, till the last of the 
blinds was lowered. Illmninated, the interior 
had a fascination — the group on the hearth, and 
the gleam of decanters imder the crimson shade 
above the damask; the glinting picture-frames, 
and the splendour of a Christmas-tree. Mean- 

Digitized by 



while on "The Two Bohemians" a little snow 
began to fall. 

"You must go home/* said Oliphant regret- 
fully. "Do you live far away?" 

"No, close," she said; "in Alfred Place. And 

"In Burton Crescent." 

"Oh, how wet you'll get! You'd better leave 
me here; it's coming down more heavily." 

"Nonsense! I'll see you to your door. We 
go through Store Street, don't we?" 

They hastened their steps, but both were sorry 
that the end had come; to each of them the pros- 
pect of the evening looked imutterably dismal. 

"I suppose I may see you at dinner again?" 
asked Oliphant, as they tinned by the little post- 
office at the comer. "Have you any regular 

"About two, as a rule." 

"ShaU you be there to-morrow?" 

"I don't know," she said, stopping; "perhaps. 
This is the house." 

"Good-bye, then," said Oliphant, "and thank 
you again. I won't keep you standing in a snow- 
storm to listen to pretty speeches, but I'm grate- 
ful to you. I should like to think we're going to 
be friends." 

She drew out a latch-key, and faced him for a 

Digitized by 



moment with steadfast eyes. Then quite simply 
she said: 

"I want you to come in, Mr. Oliphant, please; 
and we'll have some tea." 

She opened the door; and, delighted, he 
followed her along the dark passage, into a room 
to which she led the way. The fire was low, and 
it was not imtil she had lighted the lamp that 
Oliphant perceived that she was compelled to 
make shift with one room only. The asperities 
of bed and washhand-stand, however, were molli- 
fied by a shabby screen. He chose a seat where 
they would be behind him, and noted the resem- 
blance between the broken vases on her mantel- 
piece and those on his own. A framed photo- 
graph was among the vases, and the girl took it 
up and showed it to him. 

"This was a likeness of my mother, Mr. 
Oliphant,'' she said. 

The dignity of the action thrilled him with 
pleasure and respect; he felt that she could not 
have done anything more beautiful. 

She removed her jacket and gloves, and, kneel- 
ing on the hearth, coaxed the fire into a blaze. 

"Are you very wet?" she said. "As soon as 
the kettle boils, things '11 be more cheerful. I 
wait on myself very much here — I find it better." 

"Have you been here long?" 

Digitized by 



"No; only since the Independent perform- 
ances — ^nearly two months. It isn't very com- 
fortable, but ... I shall move when I get an- 
other engagement. In the meanwhile I have to 
put up with it." She puUed the pin from her 
hat, and passed her slim hands over her hair. 

"You are looking at my 'library* I It*s modest, 
isn't it?" 

"I can only see the titles of two-thirds of the 
library," he said; ''The Works of Shakespeare, 
and Archer's Masks or Faces — ^you know your 
Masks or Faces, do you I What is the little 

"The little one is ninepennyworth of Brown- 
ing. I'm studying Any Wife to Any Husband — 
because I shall never in my life be given an 
opportunity to recite it." 

"Recite it now," said Oliphant. 

"No, thank you. But what a recitation it 
would make! I don't know why no woman ever 
does it. Ah, it's lovely — isn't it divine I Do you 
read much? But of course you do. I wonder 
if you've ever tried to write?" 

"What makes you asik that?" 

"Have you?" 


"A play?" she exclaimed. 

"Oh, yes; a play, of course." 

Digitized by 



"It hasn't been produced, I suppose? — Oh, 
how rude that sounds I" 

"The assumption's correct. It has been ac- 
cepted three times, but has not been produced. 
It's in an agent's hands now; and I suppose it 
will stay there — imless he loses it. It's a drama." 

"Good?" she inquired, settling the kettle 

"Z thought it was very good. So did every- 
body else who read it — only nobody puts it on. 
Your kettle won't sing I Isn't that what you 
call it — 'singing'? Shall I draw up the fire for 
you with that newspaper ?" 

"The water was cold," she said; "it'll be all 
right in a minute. I'll ring for a second cup and 
saucer. Tell me about your drama." 

"The idea — the foundation-stone at least — is 
a shade melodramatic, perhaps; but the theme 
doesn't make a play melodrama if there's no 
bombast in the treatment?" 

"I don't know," she said; "but even if it does, 
mightn't a melodrama without bombast be as 
much art as anything else? *The great future 
for the stage lies in perfect freedom: freedom 
to try every kind of experiment — to be realistic 
or ideahstic, prosaic or fantastic, "well made" 
or plotless; freedom to go anywhere, hke the 
British Army, and do anything.' Have I a quick 

Digitized by 



study? — IVe only read the book once. What 
is the foundation-stone?" 

"It was suggested by the Tichbome Case. 
Life, of course! But so many phases of life 
become melodrama when they're transferred to 
the stage." 

The bell drew from the basement a seven-year- 
old child with wooden eyes, and fat unhealthy 
cheeks. Jam and mince-pie clung to his chin, 
and he snored. 

"Will you ask your mother to let me have 
another cup and saucer, Norman?" said the 
lodger deprecatingly. "Say I've a friend here. 
• . . We shall have it directly," ishe continued, 
as the child shuffled out, "and then you must tell 
me the plot." 

They sat opposite each other on the narrow 
hearth. Momentarily the dramatist was as 
strong as the actor in Oliphant, and the play for 
which he had hoped so much three years ago 
moved him to conjfidence again. The girl, her 
hands clasped loosely round her knee, leant for- 
ward, stirred by visions in which a mighty theatre 
hung upon her voice and the conquest of London 
was achieved. Both tvuned at a peremptory 
knock, and started as the door was throvm open. 

The demeanour of the woman who stood on 
the threshold was as excited as her method of 

Digitized by 



announcing herself. Her face was white, and 
when she began to speak she trembled. 

"This is pretty goings-on/* she said; "this 
won't do 'ere ! I don't 'ave it, and that's all about 
it." She turned to Oliphant. "I'll trouble you 
to leave the 'ouse. Now then!" 

"Mrs. Inunsl" stanunered the girl, as white 
as she. 

"My good woman," exclaimed Oliphant hor- 
ribly distressed, "what do you mean? I assure 

you There isn't the slightest reason for 

you to be annoyed. I've the honour to be a friend 
of Miss King's and she was kind enough to ask 
me in for half an hour. I shouldn't have thought 
there was anything extraordinary about it on 
Christmas Day?" 

The householder did not seem to understand, 
or to hear him. 

"You'd best be oflF," she repeated, "and so I 
tell yer ! This is a respectable 'ouse — not meant 
for the likes of 'er! Yes, you I'm talkin' about — 
yer thing; you as don't pay your rent! I might 
'ave told what it'd be when I f oimd you was an 
actress — I'd never 'ave taken you if I'd known!" 

"You — ignorant — wretch!" gasped the girl, 
steadying herself by the mantelpiece. "Go," she 
added to Oliphant; "please, go!" 

"The woman's been drinking," he said in a 

Digitized by 



low voice; "do you want me to leave you to her?" 

"Yes, please I — Please I" she murmured agi- 

"Aha!" cried Mrs. Imms; "and you go with 
'im, that's more! I won't keep you no longer. 
Out you go! I'll 'ave your box for what it's 
worth, and you don't sleep in my 'ouse, not an- 
other night!" 

Oliphant looked sharply roimd; but the mute 
appeal forbade his lingering. The uproar con- 
tinued as he traversed the passage — still in dark- 
ness — and fumbled with the handles at the end. 

The street opened upon him quiet and bleak. 
The snow had ceased, but the wind blew bitterly. 
He hated himself for having gone in, though he 
could not perceive where he had been at fault. 
The woman's threat to turn the girl out of doors 
was in his ears, and weighed on his consciousness. 
Impossible that he could leave imless satisfied 
that it wasn't to be fulfilled! He made a 
cigarette, lit it, and saimtered to and fro, debat- 
ing how long a vigil was demanded to dispel all 

His capital was reduced to eighteen shillings 
and a few pence ; his prospects were represented 
by the engagement at the Queen's Theatre, of 
which he had spoken; an engagement which 
would provide him with the sum of two pounds 

Digitized by 



a week — less than half the salary that he had been 
receiving in the provinces. If it had been other- 
wise He sighed. He reflected that it would 

have been a luxury to pay the amount of Mrs. 
Imms's claim and send Miiss King to an hotel 
where she could dine in reality before she slept, 
and have a respite from her cares. Yes, that 
would have been delightful. Did rich men have 
these pleasiires? Or did the opportunities fall 
only to men like himself, who couldn't seize them? 

His cigarette was finished; he paused by a 
lamp-post, and tried, with numbed fingers, to 
roll another. Now she would regret that she had 
met him — ^the oais in the desert of their London 
had proved a misfortune to her ! Who could have 
foreseen that it would have so serious a develop- 
ment? All the same, she would always recall 
it with abhorrence — that was only human nature. 
. • . But perhaps in the morning the landlady 
would apologise. He threw a glance at the house 
again, and ran forward as a figure appeared on 
the doorstep. 

"You?" faltered the girl, shrinking. 

"I couldn't go till I knew," he said. "Are you 
going away?" 

"Yes, don't — don't trouble, thanks. It was 
good of you to wait, but there's nothing you can 
do." Her tone was hard; but it could not con- 

Digitized by 



ceal that there were tears in her throat. She 
looked away from him. 

"Haven't you your luggage?" 

"She wouldn't let me take it. You see, I 

You understand, I owe her money — she has kept 
my things. I have these." 

"She hasn't the right," cried Oliphant, wincing 
at the handbag ; "I'll make her give them up 1" 

"No, no! don't go back — I'd rather you didn't; 
I shall manage somehow. . . . Don't let me keep 
you any longer," she repeated; "there's nothing 
you can do." 

"I've done enough!" said the man poignantly. 
"I know!" 

"You mustn't think that. You've nothing to 
reproach yourself for — if any one is to blame, it's 
I." The restraint that she was putting on herself 
gave way: "You're the only living soul I've had 
to speak to for two months!" she exclaimed, with 
a hoarse sob. "Don't think badly of me if I 
made a mistake." 

He wished he were a woman that, for answer, 
he might take her in his arms ; he could but ex- 
press his sjmapathy and comprehension by halting 
words. His poverty had never seemed so great a 
shackle as while they stood there, helpless on the 
pavement — the only sound, a bell that rang for 
evening service at some neighbouring church. 

Digitized by 



"What do you mean to do?" inquired Oli- 
phant after a brief pause. "You can't go to one 
of these houses on Christmas night, without any 
luggage, and expect to get a room." 

"No, I've thought of that — I don't know yet 
where I shall go. There's a place where I stayed 
when my mother was living — the woman would 
remember me. If it didn't mean a bus fare every 
day, I'd try there." 

"Where is it?" 

"It's at Shepherd's Bush. Are the trains run- 
ning this evening, do you know?" 

"I daresay — ^you'll let me take you, if you go? 
I can't lose sight of you till I know you're settled. 
But how can you look for an engagement, if 
you're hard up, from Shepherd's Bush — you 
can't toalk to the Strand? Besides, the house 
may be full; or perhaps the woman is dead. If 
she's alive, I suppose she'll want to be paid, like 
everybody else, won't she?" he added. 

"I must get enough for the first week some- 

Digitized by 



how/' she declared, sauntering on; "'and then 
she must trust me, or I must give the room up." 

"Look here," said Oliphant desperately, "we 
haven't known each other two hours, of course; 
and I can see you're as proud as Lucifer. But 
I'm going to be as frank as if you were my sister : 
I've eighteen shillings — and fourpence-half- 
penny, I think it is — in the world. I wouldn't 
tell many people that, so I've a right to ask for 
your friendship in return. Let me lend you half 
a sovereign till you get an engagement." 

"Oh no," she said under her breath. "No, 
thank youl" 

"You won't? How can you be so unkind — so 
— so absurd? What's to prevent it? Isn't it any 
good? Or don't you respect me suflBciently?" 

"Oh," she said, "that " 

"Don't you like me enough? You know we've 
been more conjSdential than many acquaintances 
of years' standing: you're refusing because it's 
strange that we should have grown so confiden- 
tial in two hours. That's unworthy of a woman 
with a mind hke yours! ... I wish you would 
do what I ask, and let me get your luggage for 
you to-morrow. Do you propose to let that beast 
keep it till you can pay her?" 

"I must think what to do about my trunk," 
she said. 

Digitized by 



"And the — ^it's a big word for a silly sum — the 

"Thank you, 'noM Really and truly 'noM I 
appreciate what you've said very much; but be 
tactful — and don't say any more." 

"Very well," he returned. "Now where are 
you going?" 

"I'm afraid Shepherd's Bush is too far," she 
sighed; "and, as you say, the woman mayn't be 
there now." 

"Where did you stay before you went to 
Alfred Place?" 

"I was on tour. . . . Last year I had apart- 
ments in Keppel Street; but those 'd be too dear." 
Her pace slackened to a standstill, and she turned 
impatiently: "Please don't trouble any more! 
There's not the least necessity for you to go 
through all this as well." 

"For the first time I'm compelled to differ 
from you," said the young man; "I think there's 
every necessity." 

"Well, I'd rather you went," she insisted; 
"you'll oblige me by saying good-night." 

"I'm very sorry, indeed; but as things stand, 
I don't see my way to leaving you." 

His decisive tone stung her helplessness to 

*TDo you mean to say you won't go when I 

Digitized by 



wish it?" she exclaimed haughtily. "I forbid 
you to come with me, I prefer to be by myself." 
She stood looking in his face, her air as imperious 
as her words. Oliphant had not realised till now 
that she was so tall. "I forbid you!" she re- 
peated. "I want to be alone." 

"There's one way you can get rid of me," he 
said. "Here's a policeman coming; you can 
charge me with annoying you. I'll be hanged 
if I'll leave you to wander about London alone, 
unless you do!" 

The policeman approached ponderously, his 
gaze attentive. The girl resumed her course, and 
Oliphant turned beside her. When she spoke 
again, her voice had no resentment, and it quiv- 

"I want to beg your pardon. I was ungrate- 
ful. I'm ashamed of myself." 

"Oh, please, Miss King!" he stammered. "I 
understand so well." 

"It was only because I'm so miserable." 

"I know. . . . Will you let me suggest a way 
out of the difficulty?" 

"Oh, please do!" she cried. 

"Take a room in the house where I'm staying 
— for a day or two at all events. The landlady's 
a good sort, and it's very cheap, or I shouldn't 
be there! It will avoid all bother about yoiu- 

Digitized by 



having no luggage, and about a deposit, and the 
rest of it; and you can be 'at home* in a quarter 
of an hour." She was silent for a long while. "I 
told you just now I was going to be as frank as 
if you were my sister," he continued. "If you 
were, and another man gave you such honest 
advice, I should want to find him afterwards and 
thank him I" 

"Which is our way to Burton Crescent?" she 
said cheerfully; "I forget." Oliphant glanced 
at her with admiration. 

By the clock at St. Pancras it was five minutes 
to six as they drew near the house; they were 
now walking briskly. Oliphant unlocked the 
door, and letting Alma in, went to the top of the 

"Mrs. Tubbsl" he called. "Mrs. Tubbs, can 
I speak to you for a moment?" 

A buxom little woman with rosy cheeks and 
untidy grey hair bustled up to him. 

"YouVe got back then?" she exclaimed. "I 
thought p'raps you was spending the evening 
with your friends after all." 

"No," he said; "I've brought one to you, in- 
stead. There's a lady in the hall — Miss King — 
who wants a room." 

''That there isn't!" said Mrs. Tubbs; "you're 

Digitized by 



"I'm not; she meant to sleep in Alfred Place; 

in fact, her luggage is there, but Well, I 

know the house isn't very nice, Mrs. Tubbs, be- 
tween ourselves, and I persuaded her to come 
here. Mind! it's got to be cheap and ^inclusive' 
— no more than you charge me." 

"I'm sure. Miss, I 'ope we shall make you 
comfortable," murmured the landlady, panting 
along the passage. "We're in a bit of a muddle, 
you know, along of Christmas Day and the girl 
out, but I can soon get the room to rights for 
you. Would you hke to see it. Miss?" 

"Please," said Alma. 

"Bless me, I'm forgetting the candle! I 
couldn't very well show it you in the dark, could 
I? Here, Amelia, Johnny, one of you! bring me 
a candle, quick! In the prerfession. Miss, the 
same as Mr. Elephant, may I ask? Have you 
come up to London for long?" 

"Yes, I'm an actress," said the girl; "I don't 
quite know how long I shall be staying. I'm 
sorry to put you to any trouble to-day." 

"Oh, don't talk about ^trouble,' Miss; where 
there ain't no trouble there ain't no let! I'm 
sure it was fortimate as Mr. Elephant thought 
to bring you. It'll be awkward your not 'aving 
your things with you, won't it? But there! I 
dessay you'll make shift for the night." 

Digitized by 



Oliphant remained in the passage till the 
arrangement was concluded and Alma and the 
householder reappeared. 

"YouVe settled?" he inquired. "Is it aU 

"It's quite all right," answered Miss King 
brightly: "I'm glad I came!" 

"And if there's anything you'd fancy, Miss," 
said Mrs. Tubbs, beaming, "I'll soon 'ave it up. 
A cup o' tea and a bit o' goose now?" 

"I think we should like tea at last," said 
Oliphant, "if you can manage it." 

"If I can manage it I" she echoed. "Go on 
with you! There never was such a gentleman. 
Miss, for fearin' to put anybody out. Your fire's 
in, Mr. Elephant, though I was just beginning to 
think I wouldn't make it up again, as more than 
likely yoiu* friends was keeping you." 

"I wish they would, Mrs. Tubbs," he said. 
"Well, I expect Miss King will be glad to sit 

"What ^friends'?" asked Alma, as they 
moimted to the first floor. "I thought you said 
you'd nowhere to go?" 

"I hadn't; but I didn't like to own it to her. 
She thought I'd gone to dine with some relations. 
What have you seen?" 

"I've seen my room. It will do very well." 

Digitized by 



"Well, I'll show you some more," he said. 
"Enter I" 

He displayed a drawing-room. It was not 
luxurious, but it boasted a high mirror over the 
mantel-shelf, and a sideboard supporting an- 
other. The furniture was upholstered in bright 
blue rep, and the fire leapt cheerfully. 

"Is this yours?" she exclaimed, astonished. 

"Oh no! 'Mine* is a bedroom the size of a cup- 
board. But I pay eight shillings a week, and it 
affords me the 'use' of this, and tea and toast 
twice a day. The goose this evening will be an 
•extra.' " 

"Do you mean " 

"I mean that you, like me, are entitled to come 
in here as often as you please — our terms include 
the 'use of sitting-room.' At present we are the 
only lodgers — and Mrs. Tubbs and the children 
have a parlour in the basement. You may sit 
here from pearly mom to dewy eve. Or you 
may shun it absolutely if you choose. If you 
have a preference for solitude, you can appro- 
priate the dining-room. Only you won't find a 
fire in there: I buy these coals myself — a hun-' 
dred-weight at a time, for a shilling. If you 
eventually decide upon the drawing-room, I 
think it would be honourable if you owed me 

Digitized by 



She laughed. "It's extraordinary 1" 

"'It is. But it happens to be a fact; I have 
practically the whole house. However, I'm will- 
ing to resign half of it to you if you want me 
to. Into the dining-room I will never stray." 

"This evening," said Miss King, "I will share 
the responsibility of the 'himdred-weight.* I'll 
go and take off my hat." 

Oliphant stretched himself in an armchair, and 
mechanically rolled a cigarette, and threw it 

"Let me," he said, when she returned, "show 
you the extent of your possessions! These win- 
dows open on to a balcony, where Mrs. Tubbs 
assures me it is pleasant to sit in summer. Not 
having been here in simtmier, I cannot vouch for 
it personally. Beyond, lie beautiful pleasure- 
grounds enclosed by railings — ^the use of the 
necessary key is also yours. To our left we have 
Marchmont Street — on Saturday night a busy 
thoroughfare; stalls illumined by naptha may 
be found here; and the costermongers cry: 
Tine 'erring! Where yer like, laidies — three 
a penny!' To our right are various railway- 
stations, much resorted to by such of the popula- 
tion as are desirous of going somewhere else. 
Behind us, if I'm not mistaken, is Mrs. Tubbs 
with cold goose!" 

Digitized by 



They turned to the table, and Mrs. Tubbs said: 

"Well, it ^ave cheered Mr. Elephant up to 
meet an old friend, Miss, I mtist say. I haven't 
'eard *im talk so much since 'e's been here. Might 
I ask if you'll be taking a part at any of the 
theatres, Miss? I ain't in the prerfession myself, 
but I'm that interested in it, having 'ad a niece 
as took to the stage — which her name was Billing, 
and she called herself *Clarence,' and pretty she 
was! — agoing against her father's wishes, having 
quarrelled with him, and not my pore 'usband's 
or mine — though us it was that she always blamed 
for spoilin' her prospecks — well, I sometimes 
seem to be as good as an actress in a manner of 
speaking, though I'm not." 

"I'm not in an engagement now," said Alma; 
"I hope I shall be before long." 

"No, Miss. I 'ope you'll find the tea strong 
enough. She was before your time, Miss, and — 
ah, well, she's gone now, pore dear, like Tubbs 
himself — ^though there was a coldness between 
'em to the day of her death. And pretty she was. 
And might have been at the Al'ambra still but 
for her father's artfulness!" 

"Her father didn't approve," said Oliphant; 
"and Mr. Tubbs urged her to try dressmaking 

"Mr. Tubbs was the tool of Mr. Billing," 

Digitized by 



explained the widow strenuously. "Mr. Tubbs 
he approved. Me and him was both very proud 
to see the girl famous-an'-that. It was *er father 
as made the to-do and put 'im up to interfere — 
though as fond of 'er as if she'd been 'is own — 
and speaking that 'arsh she never forgot it. Mr. 
Tubbs was the tool of Mr. Billing." 

"I've no doubt she realised it, Mrs. Tubbs," 
said Alma; "she probably felt it in her own 

"I 'ope she did, pore dear, that I do! But 
lor, it'd never do to think too much about these 
things, would it? Is there anything else you 
fancy. Miss, or Mr. Elephant, sir? If you want 
any more hot water you'll just touch the bell." 

"That's quite all, Mrs. Tubbs, thank you," he 
said; "we shan't want anything else. Come!" 
he went on, as she withdrew; "was my recom- 
mendation so bad? There's character for you! 
It's 'Mrs. Willoughby' over again; still she's a 
study. . . . What are you considering?" 

"That I thought it startling to be crossing the 
road with you this afternoon. And behold me 

"A piece more toast?" he said, passing the 
plate. "You evidently don't read much fiction, 
or you'd know that the distracted heroine finding 
peace in the stranger's rooms is the most ordinary 

Digitized by 



thing in the world. It's true this ought to be 
a handsome flat, or, at least, chambers in the 
Temple, but the situation is stale — ^absolutely." 

"Talking of situations," she replied, "you must 
tell me the story of your play. And the curtain's 
going up, and you haven't given me the title 1" 

"The title is The Impostor^' said Oliphant 
slowly. "The curtain rises on the hall of a 
country house — ^the house of the Countess of 
Plynlimmon. At the back there's a staircase 
leading to an oak gallery. She and two other 
women are on the stage — all seated. Logs are 
burning in the grate — ^twilight's gathering — the 
women have been half -asleep; it's just before 
tea. I try to convey the drowsiness and warmth 
of the moment — it opens very naturally. Lady 
Plynlimmon's nephew lounges in; Lady Maud 
Elstree, her daughter, enters. The dialogue 
turns on a guest there. Sir Clement Thurloe. 
Fourteen years before, he cut the Guards and 
disappeared; everyone believed him dead. Now 
he has returned — causing an immense sensation 
— and established his identity. Excuses are made 
for his youthful wildness, and Society receives 
him with open arms. He is reported to have been 
everything in the interval, from a sheep-farmer 
to a sailor before the mast. When the men return 
— they've been hunting, they're in *pink' — ^he is. 

Digitized by 



of course, the central figure. He speaks to Maud 
diffidently; with everyone else he is at his ease, 
though he refers to his unfamiliarity with a 
drawing-room. It's shown that he is in love with 
her, and that her mother hopes to see her marry 

"Is *Maud' a good part?" inquired the actress. 

"Yes, as good as his, I think. You would 
look it magnificently. It isnH until the act is 
nearly over that it*s sprung upon the audience 
that he is an impostor; I think it should be a 
big eflfect. A *Mrs. Vaughan' has arrived to see 
him — of course he's on the stage alone. He says 
that her intrusion here is an outrage — ^he has 
given her a house, an income, a carriage! what 
more does she want? She says she wants their 
compact fulfilled: introductions, society, the 
chance to make a brilliant match. *What's the 
use of a house where nobody comes? I bore 
myself to death in it I' She is an adventuress 
who has been — ^who has been a friend of the real 
man's in New Zealand, and expected to be made 
his wife. When he died in delirium tremens, she 
suggested to the protagonist that he should take 
advantage of his likeness to Sir Clement Thurloe, 
and her possession of a diary and letters, to 
personate him. Then there's an outburst of 
^Clement's' in which he cries that he wishes to 

Digitized by 



God he'd never listened to her: *I was ready 
enough to take the hand, I own it! But some- 
how — I don't know how it is — ^now I come to 
play it out, it's different. When a fellow calls 
himself my pal — when a good woman's standing 
by my side — I'd give all I've stolen to be a 
heggar and a gentleman again l' " 

"Well?" said the audience. 

"Well, the interview is interrupted by Lady 
Plynhmmon's voice: 'Oh, my fan, please; I've 
forgotten it!' Rhoda Vaughan insists on her 
rights. 'Clement' beseeches her. She won't 
budge. Lady Plynlinmion comes down the stair- 
case, and the act ends with the man, as white as 
death, introducing the adventuress into the home 
of the aristocrat he loves." 

"The 'villain' is the hero?" said Miss King. 

"He isn't depicted as a hero. The world's 
been against him, and he sinned when he was 
worn out with struggling. He felt that he owed 
Society nothing — ^that's the idea. Then he meets 
Maud I" 

"You give away the element of siuprise in 
your title; still it's good. I don't see any actor- 
manager playing 'Clement,' though. What is 
the reason that the modem hero is supposed to 
lose the S3mipathy of the audience if he isn't im- 
mutably noble, while the modem heroine may 

Digitized by 



violate the Decalogue? I*m sorry ^Clement* is a 
thief. Of course, he's only robbing the *Crown'? 
The Crown can afford the loss, I suppose — it 
won't keep the Crown awake at night. Still, a 
thief is low." 

''But a rogue is human. I don't defend him; 
I'm not his advocate. I show his sin and his 
suffering. He is essentially weak — the girl he 
loves is to be won for the asking " 

"You don't mean to say he actually marries 

"Ah, but the temptation!" exclaimed Oliphant. 
"You shaU hear." 

He told her the rest when they drew to the 
hearth; drifted from debate to reminiscence — 
recounting, with the eager egotism that is bred 
of loneliness, something of his boyhood, and re- 
ceiving impressions of her own life — suggestive, 
feminine — in return. He felt that she was turn- 
ing the pages of his history across his shoulder; 
and, though he had jestingly declared her posi- 
tion here to be ordinary, it constantly surprised 
him when he reflected that only a few hours 
before they were both companionless, and had 
never spoken to each other. The room, which 
had always appeared to him depressing, had this 
evening an air of gaiety and of home. Even 
when they were silent, he found it fortifying to 

Digitized by 



look at her; and e^en when he did not look at 
her, it was delightful to know that she was there. 
At ten o'clock she rose and said good-night; but 
the magic lingered with him after she had gone. 
The atmosphere was for once exhilarating, and 
the throb of the unexpected was in it stilL 

Digitized by 



A BEHEABSAL of the drama in which Oliphant 
was to commence his siege of London had been 
called for eleven o'clock the following day. He 
saw Miss King for a few minutes only before he 
left the house, but received her pennission to try 
to recover her belongings for her. This was a 
task which the threat of legal proceedings, and a 
written acknowledgment of the debt, assisted him 
to accomplish without much difficulty. He con- 
veyed the trunk to Burton Crescent by means of 
a hansom, and then walked through the muddy 
streets to the Queen's Theatre. 

The Queen's had recently been obtained by 
an actor who was assuming the management of 
a theatre for the first time. He had been a 
leading man for about fifteen years now, but the 
manager of only a few tours. For this produc- 
tion, in which the hero's part was exceedingly 
strong, he had selected the company with the 
utmost care and, excepting perhaps the Villain, 


Digitized by 



there wasn't a member of it in whom he had a 
rival to fear. 

The stage was dark and draughty. When 
Oliphant reached it nobody had come but the 
prompter, who stood by a small table, over- 
looking the empty orchestra and the auditorium 
swathed in holland. His hands were plunged in 
the pockets of his overcoat, and he shivered. He 
paid small attention to the other's advent, be- 
cause he was to be described on the playbills as 
"Assistant Stage-manager," and Oliphant was 
playing a small part. In the position that he 
had filled on tour, Oliphant would have joined 
him at the table; in the position that he filled 
here, theatrical etiquette forbade it. He walked 
up and down in the wings, and questioned for 
the hundredth time if, with such a part as this, 
Edmund Kean himself could have created an 

The other subordinates commenced to as- 
semble, and to hang about with him. They 
watched the principals arrive and stroll to the 
table imabashed; and tried to hear what they 
talked about, and envied them their lustrous 
boots, which showed that they had come in cabs. 
The Villain recounted a funny incident to the 
leading lady, and she laughed merrily without 
having grasped the joke: his salary was under- 

Digitized by 



stood to be thirty pounds a week, and she was 
only beginning. Besides, the celebrated actor 
under whom she had studied, and who had 
obtained the engagement for her, had always 
declared that her laugh was her strong point 
The low comedian demanded of the prompter 
when they were "going to have the floats." There 
was considerable delay about this, and general 
expectancy; and then the footlights ameliorated 
the gloom a little, and the leading lady, who was 
very charming, bent over the blaze of light in a 
pretty attitude to warm her hands. The "small 
part women" in the wings looked additionally 
miserable, as they gazed at her, and the men 
inquired irritably among themselves "why the 
devil they were called for eleven." Only one, a 
youth who had twenty words to deliver, affected 
to be oblivious of his surroimdings. He saun- 
tered to and fro, muttering and gesticulating, 
stimulated by the secret thought that somebody 
of importance might comment on his enthusiasm. 
A little man, with a hopeless expression, crept 
down to the footlights, and was greeted with 
cordiality — especially by the yoimg leading lady. 
He was the author. He had a roll of manuscript 
in his hand, which represented the alterations he 
had been urged to make at the last rehearsal. 

Digitized by 



He was wondering what further misfortunes 
would befall him and his drama to-day. 

Signs of impatience might be detected on the 
faces of the principals also now; but the actor 
who had a theatre for the first time felt it due to 
himself to keep the company waiting. He strode 
through the wings presently, ignoring the minor 
members — ^who scattered to let him pass — and, 
reaching the prompt-table, raised his hat about 
half an inch. 

'' 'Morning, ladies and gentlemen/' he said 
curtly to the group about him. He made some 
remark to the author about the weather, and 
turned to the assistant stage-manager, whom he 
addressed as "Mr. Mote." He was fat, and held 
himself stiffly erect, endeavouring to palliate by 
his carriage the loss of his figure. In manner he 
was arrogant, and he had frequently the air of 
swelling — as often as he wished to assert his 
dignity in private, or to express emotion in a 

"Clear the stage, please I" cried Mr. Mote, 
clapping his hands twice. "Act two, scene one! 
Sentry! Come on, Mr. — er — ^Williams, please — 
Act two, scene one!" 

The youth who had been immersed in study 
hurried nervously to that part of the stage where 
he fancied he was supposed to be pacing battle- 

Digitized by 



ments bathed in moonlight; but he was not cer- 
tain that he wasn't meant to be in a corridor, 
looking out of a window. This lent indecision 
to his movements. He said : 

" *It's a fine night. How quiet it isT " 

At the same moment concealed carpenters 
began to hammer furiously. The youth looked 
disconcerted, but nobody else took any notice. 

"'How quiet it isT" repeated the assistant 
stage-manager. "Enter the Colonel. 'Colonel/ 
please I Mr. — er — Fowler I — *How quiet it is' 1" 

"I beg your pardon I" The "Colonel" rushed 
forward. The rehearsal proceeded, and some of 
the women in the wings f oimd chairs, and chatted 
in undertones. 

The leading lady begged the Villain to advise 
her how she should "do her faint" when her lover 
was sentenced to be shot; and they moved to- 
gether to where there was space for him to 
demonstrate his conception of a yoimg girl's 
behaviour at this crisis. She confessed the fear 
that she would "find that flight of steps perfectly 
dreadfull" and he assured her cynically that there 
were "not many actresses who would object to 
be given a flight of steps to faint on." As to her 
train — ^well, it was difficult to show her I But 
there was a way — ^if she half -turned, and bent 
so, as she collapsed, it would "fall down stage. 

Digitized by 



and the picture would be excellent." The Ad- 
venturess discussed her baby's first tooth, and 
the danger of convulsions, with the low comedian, 
who, as a family man, spoke authoritatively; and 
by the side of the author, who sucked his lunbrella 
handle, the Hero sat, shouting comments, and 
rising from time to time to bluster with more 

The humble aspirants who incurred his dis- 
pleasiu*e stammered and turned pink; and one 
girl, whose arm he grasped so hard that he hurt 
her, in indicating the "business" that he desired, 
burst into tears. Those whose ordeal was longest 
were two old men. They had been in the theatres 
all theii- lives, but had sunk, from the small posi- 
tions that they had once attained; to-day they 
were scarcely above the grade of supernumer- 
aries. The younger might have been nearly 
sixty, but he remained burly and rubicund; the 
other, though probably not much older, appeared 
to be his senior by fully a decade. In his tightly 
buttoned frock-coat, painfully thin and shabby, 
he was the neatest and most pathetic little figure 
to be conceived, as he struggled to avoid the fiery 
impatience of the Hero's rebukes. The beautiful 
old face grew troubled by his eagerness to under- 
stand what was required of him ; and occasionally, 
as the actor stamped and bellowed, he glanced at 

Digitized by 



the spectators, as if fearing that his humiliation 
must excite their ridicule. 

He escaped into the wings at last, and leaning 
against the wall of the scene-dock, consumed a 
sandwich, which served him for his dinner, out 
of a piece of newspaper. 

Some hitch occurred; lines not allotted yet had 
to be spoken at this juncture. 

"What are we waiting for?" demanded the 
Hero. "Get on, Mr. Mote, please." 

Mr. Mote explained meekly that the part of 
the "Lieutenant" was not cast; and there was 
a few moments' consultation as to which of the 
actors had better "double" it. The Hero's gaze 
fell on Oliphant. 

"Here, youl" he said, beckoning; "you can 
double this." 

Oliphant took the type-written half -sheet 
among envious glances from the other "small- 
part men"; and glancing at the indication at the 
top, crossed the stage, and began to read. 

He was surprised to find that, few as the lines 
were, they gave the player scope to distinguish 
himself. He was supposed to stagger on 
wounded, with a tale of distant disaster, and 
appeal to the "Colonel" to despatch aid to his 
comrades. The performance might have no more 
than the clap-trap effect of the sudden entrance 

Digitized by 



and the reel down the raking-piece; or it might 
be one that would rivet the attention of every 
critic in the house. He saw it more fully with 
every word he delivered: the chance at that point 
for a break in the voice ; the effort to be strenuous, 
and the exhaustion that forbade it; the horror 
in the man's eyes as he described — and saw again 
— the scene from which he had come I A genius 
with an opportunity like this could have made 
the success of the evening. He read well at sight 
customarily; in his gratification he read better 
than usual ; and the author, who had fallen in love 
with the lines as he wrote them, ceased to suck 
the handle of his umbrella, and reflected with a 
pleasant smile that there were ''damn few men 
in London who could equal his dialogue!'' 

The brief speech came to an end; the "Lieuten- 
ant" swooned; and Mr. Mote called "Captain 

"Where's 'Captain Harwood'?" he said, look- 
ing roimd. 

"Z play 'Captain Harwood,' " said Oliphant 

The hitch was repeated — ^there was renewed 
consideration. It was impossible that Oliphant 
could play the "Lieutenant" if he played 
"Captain Harwood," for both characters had to 
be on the stage at the same time. 

Digitized by 



'"Well, somebody else must double the *Lieu- 
tenant/ " said the Hero. "Mr. — er — ^Mortimer's 
not on in this scene ; he can do it." 

Oliphant looked at him in dismay. 

"Would you mind letting somebody else play 
'Captain Harwood' and my keeping the *Lieu- 
tenant'?" he asked. "I like it much the better of 
the two." 

The Hero made a rather lengthy pause. It 
was intended to indicate amazement at the impu- 
dence of questioning his decision. 

**We won't discuss which of the two you like 
best, if you please," he said imperiously. "Mr. 
Mortimer I Come here I . . • You'll study the 
part of the 'Lieutenant' by to-morrow; Mr. Mote 
will give it you. • • . Goon, Mr. — er — Ohphant; 
take up your cue, please — Enter 'Captain Har- 

The rehearsal was resumed, and Oliphant went 
through his daily task hke an automaton. That 
flash of hope was already extinguished. He 
hadn't realised how great his delight had been 
at the prospect opened to him imtil the speedy 
disappointment revealed it. His heart felt hke 
lead within him, and he was glad when he was 
free to efface himself, and lament and smoke 
in comparative privacy at the stage-door. But 

Digitized by 



he had to go back, to speak a single line in 
another act. 

The author observed his return, and went over 
to him; he regretted the Hero's high-handed 
arrangement, for the sake of the young man, and 
chiefly for the sake of the piece. Mr. Mortimer's 
performance in the new part would not be start- 
ling, to judge by the stolidity he displayed in the 
one he was rehearsing already. 

"It was a pity you didn't keep the Xieuten- 
ant,' Mr. Oliphant, I think," he remarked; "you 
read it very welL" 

Oliphant knew the glow that comes to every 
yoimg actor when one in authority praises him. 
And it was the first time he had been addressed 
by the author. 

"You may imagine I'm sorry; but you saw 
what happened, Mr. Campbell," he said, shrug- 
ging his shoulders. 

"Yes; but it's a pity; you were very good 
indeed. I'll speak about it afterwards and see 
what can be done." 

The Hero had just been murmuring noble 
sentiments, which would eventually be delivered 
fortissimo, and as he made his exit, the sight of 
Oliphant and the dramatist together met his eye. 
He stalked across to them, with a swollen chest 
and distended nostrils. 

Digitized by 



''What do you mean," he exclaimed, "by ap- 
pealing to Mr. Campbell against me? How dare 

"No, no," said the author, "he didn't. It was 
I who spoke to Mr. Oliphant." 

"Z am manager in this theatre," continued the 
actor passionately, disregarding the explanation. 
"Be good enough to understand that, Mr. Oli- 
phant, once and for all! If you're not satisfied 
with the part you're playing, you're not obliged 
to play anything, you can resign your engage- 
ment. I have said you play 'Captain Harwood,' 
and that's the end of it. No, Campbell, my boy I 
No, no, my boy! I can't allow that sort of thing 
—I can'tl" 

There was a second in which Oliphant was 
tempted fiercely to answer that he did resign his 
engagement, but the knowledge of the straits 
that the indulgence would entail held him dumb. 
Though he had been in the theatrical profession 
seven years, this was his first experience of a 
managerial bully like the Hero, and he was sick 
with shame and rage. 

His line in the ensuing act was no sooner 
uttered than he left the building. He had quite 
forgotten Alma King; his consciousness at the 
moment was only of the part that had been torn 
from him, and of the insult that he had been 

Digitized by 



compeUed to swallow. It was when five minutes 
had passed that the remembrance that he would 
find her in the lodging recurred to him; and 
fortified a trifie by the recollection he hastened 

She was at the table in the drawing-room, 
writing letters — applications for engagement. A 
copy of The Stage lay near the cheap stationery 
and the penny bottle of ink. 

"Am I in the way?*' he said. 

**Why should you be in the way? It's I who 
ought to ask that. WeD?" 

"Well, it isn't well I I'm angry, furious, in 
the blues I" He burst out with the tale of what 
had happened, and the sympathy in her face was 
sweet to him as he reached the point. "If only 
I could have afforded to answer the cadi" he 
exclaimed; "I think I'm ashamed of myself that 
I didn'tl" 

"It's at times like this that poverty scalds," 
she said. "I know your feeling — I've had it so 
often. But you were perfectly, perfectly right 
not to throw your part up — it would have been 
insane I You might have had to wait months for 
another chance in town." 

"I suppose you're right," said Oliphant, "that 
I was right. But all the same, it's just one of 

Digitized by 



those instances of his wisdom that a man isn't 
proud to recalL" 

"You're inclined to be morbid, aren't you?" 
said Miss King thoughtfully. "In the way you 
look at things generally? Just a little I" 

He flushed. "I've never been told so before. 
It's — well, I've been a good deal alone; perhaps 
it's due to that, if I am." 

"I think you are. . • . You look as if I had 
accused you of a crime." 

"You took me aback, rather. It sounds weak, 
too. Do you think I'm weak?" 

"I should say you are — emotional. • . . Well, 
Veak' as weD then, yes I — in some ways. ... I 
don't think you will be spoilt by success if you 
get it. That's the greatest test of character." 

"Poverty is supposed to be the greatest test," 
he said. 

"Yes. But I don't believe it is. Poverty 
hardens a character by degrees, but success lays 
it bare in a flash. You would be very nice to 
the small people, if you were a manager, I'm 
sure. If you were the manager, for example, I 
should receive an answer to tfew." She pointed 
to one of the letters beside her. 

"What is it for?" asked Oliphant; "is it any- 
thing worth having?" 

Digitized by 



"'It is an appeal for a second-rate part in a 
fifth-rate company. If I am fortunate, I shall 
play in a different town every other night, and 
search for a new lodging every other day. The 
advertisement concludes: ^People who can't keep 
sober, save stamps 1' " 

"Good heavens 1" cried the man; "you don't 
mean to say you apply for those things ? They're 
not addressed to you. Have you ever travelled 
in a Portable?" 

"No; I can imagine what it is like, though, 

"But they don't want an artist. Miss King; 
they don't want an actress 1 Do you know what 
the audience that you would play to is like? Do 
you know what the salary is like? Have you 
any idea what the company is like that you'd 
be with? You wouldn't be able to endure the 
engagement for a fortnight if you got it." 

The girl's gesture had dignity as well as weari- 

"You seem to forget," she said quietly; "I 
am not in a position to consider these drawbacks. 
I'm here on your introduction — with only a few 
shillings in the world; and I owe money at the 
house I have left. I'm not afraid your landlady 
would turn me out in a week's time — or even in 
a month's: she trusts me — and you! But what 

Digitized by 



kind of woman should I be if I took advantage 
of your introduction and her confidence?" 

''I don't suggest you should take any advan- 
tage at alL There's such a thing as being too 
conscientious. It would be too conscientious if 
you hampered your career rather than accept a 
few weeks' credit, or a friend's help. As a matter 
of fact, it makes no difference to Mrs. Tubbs 
whether she gets her rent every Monday or every 
month; she doesn't depend on letting lodgings — 
if she did, she'd be in the workhouse! She has 
some share in a business that her brother has; 
he's an upholsterer in Mabledon Place," 

"I shan't take such an engagement if I can 
get an ordinary one quickly, you may be sure," 
she said; "it will have to be my sole resource. 
But I know the meaning of 'duty' 1 — it's my duty 
to sacrifice my interests and pay. I've never 
done anything I knew to be wrong in my life. 
Oh, I don't forget I let a stranger speak to me 
yesterday — and I can't complain if you think it 
wasn't the first time! — and I asked him in to my 
room; and it was a mistake that I shall regret 
to the day I die. But it wasn't wrong. And you 
know it wasn't *wrong'; and God knows there 
was no more of *wrong' in my heart when I 
opened that door to you than if we had both been 
children. I regret it — I always shall — ^but I'm 

Digitized by 



not ashamed of it; if I were ashamed, I'm afraid 
my goodness would go altogether, and I couldn't 
livel I'm not going to despise myself now and 
be a coward, and contemptible, rather than 
*hamper my career,' as you put it," 

"I won't urge you to do anything you're 
opposed to," responded Oliphant slowly, after a 
moment had passed. "But you've said one thing 
I want to answer; it meant you couldn't complain 
if — if I were ignorant enough to think lightly of 
you. I should like you to hear me say that I 
respect you more than any woman I've ever 

The subject of her endeavours was not re- 
sumed till the morrow, when he was leaving for 
the Queen's. Then she announced an intention 
of calling again on all the dramatic agents who 
had her name on their books ; and he walked some 
part of the way to the Strand beside her. 

The thought of what doubtless awaited her 
in these oflSces, towards which scores of other 
women, equally avid of employment, were hurry- 
ing from all quarters of London at the same 
time, forbade boldness to them both, an^jL Oli- 
phant parted from her with small expectation 
of hearing good news when they met at tea. 

His haste to escape from the theatre the pre- 
vious afternoon had left him uncertain at what 

Digitized by 




hour the rehearsal would commence this morning, 
but glancing at the call-board as he entered the 
passage, he found that he had guessed correctly. 
The Hero, however, was already on the stage, 
and it was immediately evident that his resent- 
ment was not forgotten. He stalked across to 
the young man without delay, his chest and 
nostrils expanded to their fullest capacity. 

"Oh — er — I shan't want you for the piece at 
all, Mr. Ohphant," he said haughtily. "Give 
your part back to Mr. Mote, please 1 You — er — 
aren't tall enough." 

Digitized by 



There was no written agreement; Oliphant 
had been engaged, as hundreds of actors and 
actresses are engaged every year, by word of 
mouth. Even if it had been otherwise, he could 
not have afforded to test the legality of the 
reprisal. He was dismissed — because the author 
had condoled with him on the Hero's auto- 
cracy. "Nothing happens but the unforeseen*': 
the actor had left the lodging to attend a re- 
hearsal, expecting to draw two pounds a week 
during the run of the play; the actress had left 
it, despondent, to make the round of the agents. 
The man returned without a prospect; and the 
girl came back with an "offer." 

She was offered an engagement to go to South 
Africa. The manager, who had come to London 
for the purpose of organising a company, had 
been in the second office that she entered — ^had 
noticed her, asked the agent her name, and 
concluded the arrangement on the spot. At 
rehearsals she would have to prove herself com- 


Digitized by 



petent; but on this point she had no misgivings, 
and she was overjoyed. 

"It was the purest chancel" she cried. "He 
has been here a fortnight, and Ash has never 
mentioned him to me — or me to him. If I had 
been five minutes later, he'd have gone, and I 
shouldn't even have known I had missed an 
opportunity. But, of course, I shall have to 
pay Ash his commission just the same — it was 
in his oflSce." She paused inquiringly. "Is any- 
thing the matter?" she asked. "Has it been un- 
pleasant again to-day?" 

Oliphant told her briefly what had occurred. 

What could she say? The first effect of sjrm- 
pathy is to weight the sympathiser's tongue, and 
the second is to render her self-conscious. "I 
am so sorry," murmured Miss King — and heard 
the echo of the vapid answer for ten seconds. 
"What shall you do?" she continued. 

"I must look for something else." 

"In London?" 

"Oh yes, in London; at all events in London 
as yet. I want to get in, I want to get in! The 
stage-doors are stouter than the starling's bars. 
But I've been hurling myself against them too 
long to turn away and pretend the grapes are 
sour now. They're sweet. Miss King, they're 
luscious, and my mouth's watering for them I" 

Digitized by 



"You might come back to the charge all the 
stronger for a rest,** she suggested. 

"Yes, and all the older — don't forget that, I 
left the provinces swearing that I'd get a hearing 
here, I've applied everywhere. I've tramped 
the streets, and worn out my boots, and the 
sinews of war are reduced to shillings: I'm not 
going to feel that all that has been thrown away 
while I've my health and a watch and chain. 
London owes me for the energy I've expended. 
And one of these days it's going to pay me for 
it — with compound interest. If I returned to 
the provinces now, I should feel that I had made 
a bad debt, and the thought that I'd made a 
bad debt would make me a bad actor, and if I 
were a bad actor, I should have no excuse for 
existing in this overcrowded world at all I If 

I'm not an actor, I'm nothing, and This 

isn't strength of character, it's hysteria, to be 
perfectly truthful; I don't suppose I could get a 
provincial engagement before the spring if I 

"Haven't you any friends?" 

"Haven't I any friends?" he repeated medita- 
tively. "Well, I've relations; I go to see them 
occasionally — when I've a new suit of clothes. 
Thej" aren't in the profession — ^nor in England, 
at the present time — so we needn't take them 

Digitized by 



into account. But, yes, I have a friend — I've 
an extraordinary friend — I've a friend who, I 
honestly believe, would lend me a thousand 
pounds if I asked him for it." 

She looked to see if he was serious. "Is this 
hysteria too?" 

"No, this is a sober fact. I was at Oxford 
with him and we were very chummy. He had 
leanings towards literature, and every qualifica- 
tion for embracing it, including the most im- 
portant — it didn't matter to him in the least if 
he never made it pay. He was worth about ten 
thousand a year when he was nine years old. 
We haven't met very often lately, but I'm bound 
to admit that that's entirely my fault. When I 
do dine with him, I find him as good a fellow as 
ever he was. I should be very fond of him if he 
hadn't untold wealth like the prince in a fairy 
tale; I struggled with the ten thousand a year, 
but the accumulations of his minority were the 
last straw." 

"You don't expect me to believe that, of 
course?" she said. 

"Why not — does it sound petty? Perhaps I 
didn't express myself very well; I mean we 
should still be pals if he weren't so rich. Two 
men whose lives are antithetical can't be very 
*pally,' you know. A very rich man and a very 

Digitized by 



poor one may like each other extremely — they 
may find each other very estimable and interest- 
ing — ^but they can't find each other so companion- 
able as if they were both flush, or both beggars. 
Otho Fairbaim keeps racehorses, and — and is a 
dear good fellow. But I find it difficult to keep 
myself; and though weVe points in common, I'm 
perfectly aware that by the time weVe finished a 
cigar each, he begins to feel the evening would 
be livelier if he'd asked a ^chappie' who was going 
down to Kempton, too, next day. Abstractions 
palL I can talk to you much more freely than 
I can to Fairbaim, though I've known him for 
years. . . . Tell me — you go to the Cape with a 
repertoire, of course. What are the pieces?" 

She named them — one was running at a West 
End house. "I'm to go to see it; I shall write 
in to-day. If you like I'll ask for two seats, and 
we might go together." 

"I'd like it very much; I was thinking of writ- 
ing in myself. What line are you playing?" 

"Oh, lead," she said. 


"Oh yes, I'm engaged for lead; and the parts 
are excellent, aren't they? It will be splendid 
experience, too, with a repertoire. It's a good 
thing I have my trunk; but even as it is • • . 
I have to find the modem wardrobe myself , you 

Digitized by 



know I Still I shall be all right for the first fort- 
night, and I can get one or two frocks in Cape 

She did not mention what her salary was to be, 
though; and in view of the circumstances, and 
her general frankness, the peculiarity of the 
reservation struck Oliphant as forcibly as if he 
were again a novice. He remembered living with 
an actor years before and listening to his domestic 
anxieties imtil three o'clock in the morning and 
there was nothing the actor hadn't communicated 
when the tour came to an end excepting how 
much a week he received. Past salaries were 
quoted; and there were confidences about his 
mother's intemperance and the shortcomings of 
his wife; but his "terms" of to-day were tacitly 
understood to be a sacred matter. 

With this single exception — ^the only profes- 
sional trait he had observed in her — Miss King 
was candour personified. The tickets for the 
theatre arrived, **With the acting manager's 
compliments," and she and Oliphant spent an 
evening in the dress-circle. Both enjoyed it. To 
be able to lounge in a velvet f auteuil in evening 
dress, when he can ill afford the sixpence for the 
programme, is the one advantage that the actor 
out of work possesses over the rest of the un- 
employed. His dinner may have been a sausage. 

Digitized by 



and for supper nothing may await him at all; 
but a draught of oblivion is, at least, permitted 
him by the kindly etiquette of "the profession" ; 
and many a hopeless heart has been fortified 
by it. 

Yet it is tantalising, sometimes maddening. 
Sometimes it fills the breast of the actor out of 
work with such longings that he wrings his hands 
with desire — this view, from the Delectable 
Mountains, of the Celestial City whose gates are 
closed. Oliphant enjoyed the performance — ^to 
watch good acting gave him as keen a delight as 
a musician derives from a superb instrumentalist; 
but to him the pleasure of the evening was alloyed 
by the craving that assailed him in the entr'actes. 
To Miss King there was no alloy. The girl fore- 
saw herself in the part of the favourite actress 
whom she had come to study and to criticise; and 
it was almost like witnessing her own success. 
She sat recalling the "business," debating 
whether it could be improved, and thrilling with 
the anticipation of delivering certain lines. 

The epoch of the drama was admirably 
adapted to her. She seemed created to wear the 
robes of a bygone age — almost any bygone age — 
and move among great deeds. She would have 
looked lovely as Juliet, which she wanted to play ; 
as Hypatia, which she hadn't thought of, she 

Digitized by 



would have been ideal; the intense earnestness 
of the part was there in her face, Oliphant was 
again conscious of this when they left the theatre, 
and turned homeward through the wet streets. 
He was also conscious that not one woman in a 
hundred, trembling with thanksgiving, would 
have divined his mood and troubled to assuage 
it by the first remark she made: 

"I daresay you'll be playing there one day!** 

"I?" he exclaimed. 

"I daresay. If you were as sure of your future 
as I am, you'd be happier." 

"But why?" 

"How shall I define? You're an enthusiast — 
there aren't so many of them in our profession! 
But it isn't that either — I suppose enthusiasts fail 
too. You impress me with the idea that you'll 
succeed, and I've never had the conviction about 
any one else. If I've been curious about people 
at all, it has been to wonder why on earth they 
ever took to the stage." 

"Because it's the laziest life." 

"Say it may be; don't you study?" 

"Oh, I do; but have you been on many tours 
where the people did?" 

"Of course one can take it easy, if one likes, 
now there are no more stock companies. It 
couldn't have been very *lazy' in the old days 

Digitized by 



when one had to master three or four parts a 
week. Those were the times to make actresses — 
when one sat up all night studying with a wet 
towel round one's head! when one was Lady 
Macbeth on Monday, and Lady Gay Spanker on 
Tuesday, Ah, heavenly times! Yes, to people 
who don't work at home it is the laziest life now, 
I suppose — during an engagement; they're fairly 
busy when they're ^resting,' What are you going 
to try for to-morrow?" 

"I'm going to try to see Townsend," he said. 
"You know they are producing a piece of his at 
the West Central I once went out in cMie of his 
things; and he rehearsed the company. He was 
kind enough to think me good." 

"Will he remember you?" 

"An author never remembers anything except 
his grudge against the critic who gave him a bad 
notice, but I shall remind him who I am. I hear 
they have only engaged the principals so far, and 
the first call is for twelve o'clock to-morrow. I 
mean to waylay him as he goes in." 

To waylay a man as he goes in; to scheme for 
an introduction to another who doesn't want to 
know you; to submit to rudeness, and disguise 
privation under well-cut clothes; to smile in the 
Strand and break your heart in private, are the 
essential preliminaries to success on the stage. 

Digitized by 



unless you have money, or your father was a 
favourite actor. 

Miss Eang was rehearsing in a large room over 
a public-house in Covent Garden, and after 
accompanying her there next day, Oliphant 
proceeded to his destination. The stage-door of 
the West Central was in a narrow court not more 
than five minutes distant, and he reached it too 
early. Rather than incur the risk of missing the 
dramatist, though, he remained; and casting 
eager glances in the direction in which the man 
must come, endeavoured to persuade himself that 
he was hopeful. To be hopeful is to wear a 
cheerful expression, and a cheerful expression is 
valuable to the apphcant for f avoiu-s. 

When Mr. Townsend appeared he was walk- 
ing at a swift pace. He passed Oliphant without 
any sign of recognition, and, hastening after him, 
the young man said diffidently: 

"Mr. Townsend I" 

"Eh? Yes; what is itr 

"You don't remember me; my name's Royce 
Oliphant; I played * Albert Kenyon' in Don 
Qvixote of Belgravia — the Number 1 Com- 

"Oh y-e-s, yes. How d'ye do, Mr. Oliphant?" 

"Is there any part open in this? I should be 

Digitized by 



immensely glad to get a chance at the West 

"I'm afraid the cast is complete. You — er — 
might drop me a reminder when the tour starts. 
I'm afraid there's nothing open in the produc- 

"Not a small part? To come to tovm I'd take 
twenty lines." 

The author mused. 

"Well, there's a— I don't know; I'll see. It's 
just possible that I can offer you something. You 
might wait a second, wiU you?" 

He plunged into the gloomy entrance, and 
clattered down the stairs. And a quarter of an 
hour went by. 

When he emerged he was with the stage- 
manager. Oliphant's momentary expectation, 
however, faded into blankness as he saw that Mr. 
Townsend had forgotten all about him. He 
stopped him again: 

"Mr. Townsendl" 

"Eh? Oh, yes, yes. I have to go roimd to 
the front with Mr. Bensusan now. I'll see you 
when I come back. Don't go away; I shan't be 
ten minutes." 

The actor made a cigarette, and stood before 
the door like a sentinel. An hour passed. He 
would have liked to sit down, but there was no- 

Digitized by 



where to sit. Two hours passed — two hours and 
a half. Still Mr. Townsend did not return. In 
desperation at last Oliphant went in search of 
him. At the box-office it was believed that he 
would be found at lunch in the restaurant across 
the road; and he was discovered eating oysters. 
He looked up as Oliphant approached him. 

"Oh — oh, Mr. Oliphant! yes, of course I I 
mentioned the matter to Mr. Bensusan ; but there 
are wheels within wheels, you know, my boy I — 
I can't work it. I'm sorry." 

"It can't be helped," said Oliphant. "Thanks 
for doing what you could." 

He turned away, and paused among the tur- 
moil of the Strand, considering what to try for 
next. The odour of the restaurant lurked in his 
nostrils enticingly, and a passing omnibus threw 
a clot of mud in his face. 

Digitized by 



A FEW days later Miss King sailed for the 
Cape. She had contrived to discharge her debt 
to Mrs. Tubbs — probably by the sacrifice of 
something from her tnmk: Oliphant did not hear 
how the payment was accomplished — ^and the 
widow deplored her departure on every occasion 
that she appeared with the remaining lodger's 
tea and toast. 

Oliphant missed the girl too — ^more than he 
would have believed was possible considering how 
brief a time she had lived there. He felt lonelier 
than ever now when he returned to the empty 
drawing-room after tramping the pavements in 
vain. It is one of the painful features of the 
theatrical life that the friends of to-day are so 
often strangers to-morrow; every tour sees inti- 
macies formed among people who, after the com- 
pany is disbanded, may not meet one another 
again for years. But Miss King had been met in 
an unusual way, and in this case his own environ- 
ment remained the same. Its sameness empha- 
sised her absence, and lent a pathos to it. 


Digitized by 



It was about a week after their farewell that 
something imlooked for happened — something 
that promised to alter the whole complexion of 
his affairs. A letter lay on his hot-water can 
one morning, and a letter was sufficiently rare 
for him to open it with eagerness. When he had 
read it his eyes sparkled, and the attic looked 
lovelier. London had a heart after all, and he 
could hear it beating. London was human ! The 
agent with whom he had left The Impostor wrote 
that he could place it for immediate production 
at a West End house. The percentage offered 
was very fair in view of the author's obscurity; 
and a hundred pounds, on account of fees, would 
be paid when the contract was signed. Oliphant 
was asked to reply at once, stating whether he 
was prepared to accept the terms. He stood 
still and laughed. 

Yes, he was "prepared"! His hands shook as 
he dressed. He would reply in person. That 
the drama had been accepted three times already 
and that three contracts for it had been broken, 
did not damp his exhilaration, for the offer of 
money on account showed that business was 
meant, and besides, the production was to be 
"immediate." For once he left Burton Crescent 
buoyantly. Like the attic, the familiar windows 
of Marchmont Street had an unfamiliar air. The 

Digitized by 



confectioner's which had recently appeared to 
mock him with its display of miattainable short- 
bread decorated with New Year's greetings in 
citron and sugar-plmns — the little toy-shop, 
lower down, where he bought his papers — the 
oranges and tomatoes, and apples and chestnuts, 
on a stall under the tarpaulin — everything smiled 
to him to-day; he contemplated the landmarks 
with affection. Even the Strand — though he 
could never love the Strand — ^he was able, at 
least, to forgive. He remembered the sufferings 
it had inflicted without resentment. He had got 
the better of the Strand at last! 

What a good fellow was the agent! though he 
had never struck him in that light before. How 
difficult, as the briUiant details were imparted, 
to disguise that the thing appeared incredible, 
something too marvellous to be true. "Clement" 
was to be played by Herbert Rayne, who hoped 
to obtain a lease of the Dominion. Herbert 
Rayne would be excellent as "Clement." And 
he had a reputation — the part of the hero was 
in first-rate hands. Would Oliphant meet him 
here on the morrow at, say, one o'clock? Yes, 
he would not fail; it was an appointment. His 
blood bubbled in his veins as he proposed a drink. 
There was a flicker of feeble sunlight on the 

Digitized by 



puddles when they stood outside, and he saw a 
blaze that dazzled him. 

How charming was Herbert Rayne when the 
interview took place and signatures were written I 
How novel it was to be deferred to by a popular 
actor, with astrakhan on his overcoat, and to 
discuss with him the qualifications of other popu- 
lar actors! What did the author think of Miss 
Proctor for "Lady Maud"? The author, aston- 
ished at his boldness, confessed that he had 
always thought Miss Proctor lacked sympathy. 
Rayne agreed with him — she did. And she asked 
thirty pounds a week, which was absurd. He 
suggested somebody else, and they walked down 
the Strand together arm in arm. And they were 
seen by two persons to whom Oliphant was 
known I He was mortal and the fact gratified 

"You're an actor yourself, Mr. Oliphant, eh?" 
said Rajme. "How about playing in the piece?" 

"I don't think so, thanks," laughed the young 
man; "I shall be nervous enough as it is!" 

"It would be good business for you — author's 
fees and a salary too! But, of course, you're 
right; it'd be a mistake. I think I shall be able 
to get the Dominion — I shall know this week. 
I've made them a fair offer. The rent they ask 
is a hundred and fifty, but that's all pickles!" 

Digitized by 



No longer compelled to husband the few 
sovereigns that remained from the loan on his 
Watch and chain, Oliphant proposed luncheon, 
and Rayne did not decline the invitation. On 
the contrary, he declared there was only one place 
to lunch at, and that was Dolibo's. 

"It's the best cooking in London, I say; and 
then it saves time — as everybody goes there, one 
meets aU the people one has to see. I must intro- 
duce you to Ravioli." 

So they jumped into a hansom, and drove to 
Dolibo's; and Oliphant was duly introduced to 
ravioli, which he had presumed was a composer, 
but which turned out to be a mess that tasted of 
nothing but the tomatoes. Nevertheless it was 
a delightful day. And the fact that the agent, 
after deducting the amount of the commission, 
had given him a crossed cheque, was the only 
alloy to his satisfaction. 

Rayne's confidence was justified and the Do- 
minion was secured. There were various hopes 
that were not fulfiUed — either the salaries asked 
were prohibitive, or it was found that the artists 
would not be disengaged soon enough. The 
"Lady Maud" on whom Oliphant had set his 
heart was attacked by pleurisy three days before 
the date of the first rehearsal, and in her place 
was Miss Blanche EUerton, whom he had never 

Digitized by 



seen, and who was by comparison unknown. The 
morning arrived, however, when the company 
assembled at the theatre to hear Royce Oliphant 
read his play. 

He arrived early. It was at this period his 
constant endeavom* to avoid all the faults and 
affectations that he had execrated in others. He 
had rendered himself rather a nuisance by the 
earnestness of his attempts to obtain smaU parts 
for his acquaintances, who, from the moment the 
earliest announcement was made, besieged him 
with written and oral reminders of their exist- 
ence. That he had not succeeded in a single 
instance was due to circumstances that he could 
not help; but the failure troubled him, and he 
had felt that his explanations must sound as 
hollow to his former colleagues as the explana- 
tions of his present associates had hitherto ap- 
peared to himself. He arrived early. 

The others were before him, though. A semi- 
circle of chairs had been formed on the stage, as 
if in readiness for a minstrel entertainment; and 
facing it, under the T-piece, was the one reserved 
for himself. Mr. Rayne made several remarks 
to him, which he believed he answered : he had the 
vaguest idea of their tenor. He noted a pretty, 
fair girl, who wore a feather boa, lifting attentive 
eyes to him, and hoped she could act. He saw 

Digitized by 



the manuscript and a glass of water on the 
prompt-table, and shivered as the patient at the 
dentist's shivers at the sight of the forceps. He 
approached the prompt-table — and put his um- 
brella on it! He had touched the apex. 

"Good-morning, ladies and gentlemen," he 
said, in a voice that he didn't recognise. 

The remembrance assailed him that more than 
one of these people to whom he was about to 
read bore names that were household words 
among playgoers, and he tiuned suddenly giddy. 
He wished that Rayne had not known he was 
an actor, for he was certain he should read Uke 
an amateur of the worst kind. He fumbled with 
the leaves of the manuscript, and cleared his 
throat, and sipped the water. 

''The Impostor/' he began. 

He dashed into the stage-directions, which 
gave him a moment to accustom himself to the 
situation ; and he gabbled them vilely. It seemed 
to him five minutes — in reality it was less than 
thirty seconds — before he had his voice under 
control at all. His predominant and paralysing 
thought was that everybody would be bored to 
death hours before he had finished. 

To read a play well is an achievement of which 
very few are capable; for to read a play well 
means to render perhaps fifteen parts, and the 

Digitized by 



more thoroughly one character may be realised, 
the more difficult it becomes to change instan- 
taneously to the next. When the reader is the 
author too, sensitive to each jnovement of every 
member of his audience, strained to sickness with 
the double responsibiUty, the ordeal is beyond 
description. It was twelve o'clock when Oh- 
phant sat down; it was four o'clock when, after 
three brief intervals, he closed the covers of the 
last act. During two hours he knew that he had 
done the best of which he was capable. He 
looked up at the girl with the feather boa, and 
he saw that to her thinking, at all events. The 
Impostor spelt success. 

There was a hum of congratulation. Every- 
body had a smile; the girl exclaimed feehngly, 
"Oh, it's beautiful 1" And an elderly woman, 
who, OUphant assumed was cast for "Lady 
Plynlimmon," said with quiet authority, "The 
play is sure — oh, surel" at which Rayne looked 
much pleased. 

Then there were introductions, and more flat- 
tering conmients made. And at last, not quite 
certain whether he was awake or in a dream, 
OUphant escaped to gulp the air, after hearing 
that everyone was expected at twelve again the 
following morning. 

It might be imagined that the rehearsals would 

Digitized by 



prove no novelty to him, but they were astoiind- 
ingly new. Familiar things were all at once pre- 
sented to him in a fresh light — ^just as light had 
been shed already on Mr. Townsend's behaviour 
at the West Central. A rehearsal here was as 
diflFerent from the rehearsals to which he was 
used — as diflFerent from a rehearsal at the 
Queen's, for example — as the captain's impres- 
sion of the voyage is from a passenger's. 
Hitherto his sole anxiety had been his own per- 
formance — ^now he was anxious about everyone's; 
and, too diflident to puU up the artists publicly 
in order to obtain the inflections he desired, his 
brain swam in trying to remember the thousand- 
and-one suggestions he wanted to make to them 
in private. He was harassed day and night by 
the remembrance of warnings about something 
which somebody had felt it "only right" to utter. 
He was drawn aside by "Lady Plynlinmion" to 
be cautioned that the stage-management was 
ruining her most important scene; Voysey, the 
stage-manager, informed him that his refusal to 
have incidental music was going to "damn the 
show" ; and Rayne came down to the theatre one 
morning with the opinion that the "hero was an 
unmitigated blackguard." Even when the inci- 
dental music was conceded, it was not the end of 
the matter. OUphant derived his principal com- 

Digitized by 



pensation from watching the rehearsals of the 
girl with the feather boa, who had proved to be 
Blanche £llerton« Though she was not more 
than three or four and twenty, her performance 
promised to be admirable — ^in fact, she was an 
ideal "Maud/* Her giplishness was so "natural,*' 
her pathos was so unforced, that she delighted 
him. So when she turned to him one day in 
excitement and despair, he was ready to take 
her side before he had heard what her grievance 

"Oh, Mr. Oliphant," she exclaimed, "please, 
please tell Mr. Voysey that that awful number 
they play through my soliloquy won't do I It 
kills it. I simply can't act if they play it. The 
situation wants something plaintive, and Mr. 
Van Putten has written a jig!" 

Oliphant hadn't remarked the incongruity, and 
said so. 

"Well, ask him to let you hear it. Will you? 

"Certainly I will," he answered; "I'U ask him 

The conductor was sitting by the piano at the 
opposite comer of the stage, and Oliphant went 
over to him. 

"Mr. Van Putten," he said, "I wish you'd let 

Digitized by 



me hear one of the numbers youVe written. Do 
you mind?" 

''ZkyV said the conductor coldly. He inquired 
which number it was. 

Miss EUerton joined them. "Number three/' 
she said. 

"Ha, ha!" said Mr. Van Putten; "dee lady 
find zomeding wrong mid it, yes? Ha, ha! Zir, 
I 'ave gombosed dee music for all dee brincibal 
deatres in London; but dee gombany knows best, 
ain't it? Zo, I viU bky it!" 

He did. In describing it as a "jig" the actress 
had exaggerated, but not more wildly than was 
pardonable in the artistic temperament. 

"It's very fine," said Oliphant; "yes, thank 
you. Still, I fancy that for the situation some- 
thing a little slower would be better; it doesn't 
quite fit the lines. Perhaps you've noticed it 

"What's the matter?" demanded Mr. Voysey. 

"Dee audor and dee lady gomblain of dee 

Without any premonitory symptoms Mr. Voy- 
sey exploded. The conductor posed resignedly, 
with the oflFending number drooping from his 
hand. The rehearsal was stopped, and a heated 
argument continued for five minutes. Rayne 
agreed with everybody all at once. 

Digitized by 



"It's Miss Ellerton's scene," repeated Oli- 
phant, "and if she doesn't feel the number it 
ought to be changed. We can't sacrifice the 
actress to the incidental music!" 

"Oh, that's enough, Mr. Oliphantl" cried the 
stage-manager. "All right, aU right, all right! 
I've had thirty-five years' experience in the pro- 
fession, but I'm always ready to learn. Produce 
the piece your way! I may as well go home, as 
I don't know my business." 

However, he picked up the manuscript again 
at the same moment. Miss Ellerton had gained 
her point, and the rehearsal was resumed. 

"You got me into nice trouble," Oliphant said 
to her by and by. 

"Oh, it was so good of you!" she answered 
radiantly. "But wasn't it hideous? It set one's 
teeth on edge." 

"It was a trifle weird," he agreed. 

"You don't know how grateful I am! I 
couldn't, I simply couldn't have acted to that 
ghastly noise. . . . Have you seen the boy any- 
where lately?" 

**Do you want anything?" 

"I want him to fetch me a bim. I'm famished, 
and we shan't get away till five if we're going 
through the last act." 

"Let me go for you. What shall I bring?" 

Digitized by 



**Will you? Oh, just a bun, please; that's alL 
Thanks awfully r 

So he brought a box of cakes from a neigh- 
bouring confectioner's, and she handed it round 
to the other women, and then came back to offer 
it again to him. She stood beside him in the 
wings, eating chocolate eclairs, and discussing 
the frocks she was to wear in the part. She was 
pretty enough to be attractive, even while she 
ate a chocolate eclair. 

Digitized by 



When the Wednesday dawned for which the 
dress-rehearsal was fixed, Oliphant rose in a state 
of tension which he knew was to continue for 
thirty-six hours — ^until the curtain fell the follow- 
ing night on the production. His remembrance 
of these thirty-six hours was always vague. A 
salient feature was Mr. Voysey's silk hat at the 
back of his head, as he stood, on Wednesday 
morning, doing nothing anxiously in the centre 
of "Lady Plynlimmon*s" hall; the brilliantly- 
lighted scene, in which he was the solitary figure, 
and the gloom of the auditorium formed a strik- 
ing contrast. There was a sprinkling of curious 
strangers in the stalls. And when the rehearsal 
began at last, everything went wrong — every- 
thing except the performance of Miss Ellerton. 
Even Rayne was not so good as the author had 
expected him to be ; and others did not know their 
parts; and terrible omissions were discovered 
which could never be remedied in time. At five 
o'clock, when Oliphant went back to Burton 
Crescent, he was bowed with despondence. 


Digitized by 



Thursday drew towards dusk tardily. He had 
strolled about the streets till he was tired, and, 
still too restless to sit down, he now paced the 
drawing-rocxn, staring with strained eyes at the 
darkening enclosure beyond the windows. He 
thought that he wanted scHnebody — anybody — 
to talk to; but when Mrs. Tubbs brought in the 
inevitable tea and toast, her chatter drove him 
to the verge of frenzy. 

"I suppose you can't help thinking about it, 
Mr. Elephant," she said, '"and being a bit worried 
like? Well, you're fine and large on the bills, 
that you are I Mrs. Johnson she was saying only 
yesterday — ^you've heard me speak o' Mrs. John- 
son? — the lady as does your washing — she was 
saying only yesterday she never see a strikinger 
bill in her life; and she's what you may call a 
reg'lar playgoer, mind yerl Is it a laughable 

"No," he said huskily; ""it isn't meant to be 
comic. I don't think I want any tea, thank you." 

"Lor, you must eat a bit — whatever are you 
talking about! I suppose if it takes, you'll be 
making a lot o' money, won't you? I do wonder 
you ain't acting in it yourself — seems so strange. 
Mrs. Johnson she was asking me which of the 
parts you took, and when I said you hadn't got 
nothin' to do with it, she was that surprised! 

Digitized by 



Well, me and her '11 both be there, anyhow; I 
give her a ticket, and we mean to clap like one 
o'clock, / can tell yer!" 

"For heaven's sake," he exclaimed agitatedly, 
"don't go clapping all by yourselves! Don't, 
I beg you!" The toast choked him, and it was 
necessary to obtain a respite. "I'll go and dress," 
he declared. 

"Better 'ad," said Mrs. Tubbs; "Mrs. Johnson 
she 'as took especial pains with your shirt — ^you'll 
find it at the top of the parcel. / know the sink- 
ing you've got, Mr. Elephant — 'aving 'ad it my- 
self. Never shall I forget the night as 'er as is 
gone left this very 'ouse to make her first appear- 
ance before the public, with me and 'er uncle 
a-foUowin' of her, a mask o' perspiration in the 
bus! And the talent o' that gal was astonishin', 
though little more than showing of 'erself o£F 
'ad she got to do. And if it 'adn't been that Mr. 
Tubbs was the tool of Mr. Billing, it's at the 
Al'ambra or somewhere she'd 'ave " 

The quiet and coolness of the bedroom was 
refreshing. By maddening degrees another hour 
crept by. Presently it wasn't ridiculous to con- 
sider starting for the theatre. He had intended 
to take a hansom, as befitting the occasion, but 
suddenly he preferred to walk. He did not mean 
to go behind the scenes until after the perf orm- 

Digitized by 



ance; to show himself earlier would be only to 
increase the nervousness of the company. In the 
Strand he had a liqueur of brandy, and bought 
a cigar, and consulted his watch, which he had 
taken out of pawn, a dozen times. 

The crowd outside the pit and gallery was 
large — ^he wondered with a pang how many 
orders it might represent. The people surged 
forward as he speculated on the point, and a 
flood of light was cast upon the pavement from 
the centre doors, which opened noisily and dis- 
played the foyer. The commissionaire who 
opened them was very tall and fat, and his but- 
tons shone; Oliphant noticed that. The gleam 
of the acting-manager's shirt-front, and the blue 
scarf over the head of an early arrival in a four- 
wheel cab, also impressed him, like the artificial 
redness of a bank of roses at the foot of a gilt 
looking-glass when he entered. There was a tele- 
gram for him in the box-office, and it slipped 
from his fingers three times before he mastered 
it. It ran : "I'm drinking your health. Heartiest 
wishes for a thundering success to-night — Otho.'* 
It was sent from Paris. At the top of the stairs 
he handed it to the programme-girl instead of 
his ticket, and tried to smile when the mistake 
was pointed out; his lips felt very stiflF. 

He sat in the dress-circle, and listened to the 

Digitized by 



clatter of feet overhead, as the gallery-patrons 
stumbled down the wooden steps. After an 
eternity, when the orchestra appeared, and the 
first preliminary scrape of a fiddle wnmg his 
heart, he understood the sickness of the soul 
which so often prevents a dramatist attending 
the production of his play. Hitherto he had 
ridiculed it; now he understood. Momentarily 
he entertained the idea of going away, but a 
feeling of physical weakness, as much as curi- 
osity, held him chained. 

The stalls were rapidly filling, and occasionally 
there was the sharp rattle of rings, as an attend- 
ant preceded a party into a private box. Mr. 
Van Putten emerged; he settled his coat-tails. 
He tapped with the baton, and collected eyes. 
The orchestra emitted a feeble wail. It grew 
louder; it acquired time, and tune; it culminated 
in a crash. The author gripped the arms of his 
chair — and the curtain rose. 

The scene glowed before him as it had done 
yesterday; the women were there — and they 
spoke; so much he knew. Whether they spoke 
the lines well, or whether they spoke the words 
that he had written, he did not know in the 
least. He thought that if the actresses' nervous- 
ness had equalled his own they would have been 
tongue-tied; but they had — as he had always 

Digitized by 



had till now — the stimulus of the footlights. . . . 
Gradually his mind became acuter; he waited 
for an inflection, and looked for the next "en- 
trance." It was "Maud's"; God! was Maud 

" 'Maud is here, mother; and very impatient 
for tea!'" 

Ah! she was on the staircase — she came down 
it slowly, her finger-tips trailing the balustrade. 
How graceful she was ! How charming a figure, 
as she smiled across the table! . • • There was 
a ripple of laughter as "Lady Plynlimmon" let 
fall an epigram with an air of unconsciousness 
that gave it twice its point. . . . Rayne — look- 
ing very handsome in "pink" — was welcomed en- 
thusiastically. ... To find that "Sir Clement" 
wasn't Sir Clement at all startled the audience 
as it was meant to do, and an audible stir ran 
through the theatre. The author's agitation had 
a throb of enjoyment in it now; yesterday's 
blunders were avoided — ^the piece was going 
without a hitch! 

He did not go to smoke in the interval; nor 
in the next. He sat longing to grip Rayne and 
everybody else by the hand. He had misjudged 
Rayne! The whole company was doing valiant 
work, and the applause had been of the warmest 

Digitized by 



The act-drop went up for the third time, and 
"Maud" and the man who called himself Sir 
Clement Thurloe were "discovered" on the anni- 
versary of their wedding-day. Rayne and Miss 
EUerton were both excellent here. His hunger 
for the love of the wife whom he had bought by 
his fraud, and her own awakening tenderness, 
were depicted admirably. Soon her dislike of 
"Mrs. Vaughan" — ^the man's embarrassment 
when questioned — fanned a mistaken fear to 
jealousy. The girF^ voice as she turned to "Lady 
Plynlimmon" with the cry of "Mother I You' 
made me marry him — tell me if it's true I" 
brought Oliphant's heart into his throat. She 
was displaying an intensity that astonished even 
him. For the end of the act — the whirlwind 
of despair — ^he relied on Rayne. But another 
scene had to come first: the "scene of the two 
women," when "Maud" declined to receive "Mrs. 
Vaughan," and the adventuress, in retaliation, 
flung the truth in her hostess's face and told her 
that she was the wife of an impostor. The scene 
came which was to be made or marred by Miss 
Blanche Ellerton. 

And now she held the house; and Oliphant 
worshipped her. The girl who had eaten choco- 
late eclairs, and talked theatrical slang in the 
wings, bore herself like a queen. Every word 

Digitized by 



she uttered, every quiver of the proudly-set 
lips, struck a chord in his own being. His life 
seemed a part of her — ^to flutter with her breath. 
The act — ^the play — ended somehow; he thought 
of no one but her. 

He fancied there was a cry of "Author" when 
he made his way *T)ehind" after the curtain fell 
The artists were all on the stage — all with their 
nerves strung high; the eyes that some of the 
women turned to him were wet as he stammered 
his thanks. He loved everybody; the members 
of the company were his brothers and sisters 1 
Rayne clapped him on the shoulder, and sounded 
imperative — Oliphant didn't understand about 
what. All he realised vividly was that Blanche 
Ellerton was standing among the group, waiting 
for him to reach her. He took both her hands 
and could have fallen at her feet. 

"Oh, Gk)d bless you I" he gasped. 

"Was I what you meant?" 

"You were great — ^what can I say? — ^you were 
great I" 

"For Heaven's sake, man, come I" Rayne 
wrenched him round; "they want the author — 
take your call!" 

He was dragged before the audience, and made 
his bow. 

She was there when he came oflP — ^not queenly 

Digitized by 



any longer, but a girl with paint on her face, and 
a tear trickling down it. "Good-night," she said. 
"I think it's a success?" 

"Thanks to yott," he muttered. He caught 
her hands to his mouth, and kissed them violently. 
"There are no words to tell you how grateful I 
am — ^no words I Good night. Miss EUerton." 

It occurred to him afterwards that a diplo- 
matist would have bestowed his superlative bene- 
diction on the manager ; but he didn't care ! 

Digitized by 



When Mrs. Tubbs came into his room with 
the bundle of newspapers that he had ordered 
overnight, Oliphant sat up in bed and grabbed 
them; and the more he read the blanker grew 
his dismay. Not one of the Press opinions of 
The Impostor was wholly favourable, and the 
majority were decidedly the reverse. The actors 
and actresses, of course, were complimented, 
especially Miss EUerton — The Daily Telegraph 
was reminded of Aimee Desclee — but the dra- 
matic critics were not so diffident of disparaging 
the author; and after breakfast, when the eve- 
ning papers were published, one of the notices 
was headed, "Claude Melnotte in a Chimney- 
pot Hat." 

The author walked down to the Dominion in 
the morning, because he felt that it would be 
cowardly to stay away; and he had a brief, 
dejected chat with Rayne in the office. To go 
to the theatre at night, however, and see the 
company flat, and the house three-parts empty, 


Digitized by 



was beyond him. He wondered if Miss Ellerton 
was sympathising with him in his failure. She 
could afford to do so; The Impostor had at any 
rate been a triumph for her. He would go 
to-morrow 1 He fancied what she would say 
and what he would answer, and foresaw her reply 
to that. He found that he was looking forward 
to their conversation very eagerly. 

But it was not quite so charming as he had 
expected. She said that "the bad notices of the 
piece were an awful shame," but he could not 
avoid perceiving that her mind was chiefly occu- 
pied by the good notices of herself. The con- 
versation approached his imaginary picture more 
closely when he congratulated her on her success; 
then she was again animated. He was relieved 
to hear that the audience was not so scanty as 
he had feared it would be; and when the acting- 
manager came round with the returns Rayne 
perked up, and spoke hopefully of "pulling the 
thing together yet." 

It was his first play; the atmosphere of a 
theatre had grown essential to him; and man 
knows no wilder adoration than a dramatist may 
feel for the actress who realises his heroine — the 
Dominion drew Royce Oliphant like a loadstone. 
He watched Blanche Ellerton from the wings 
while she was on the stage, and talked to her 

Digitized by 



in the wings when she came off, and found the 
wings a void when she was in her dressing-room. 
The not uncommon delusion that to obtain 
disenchantment it is only needful to view the 
make-up on an actress's face at dose quarters, 
is the reverse of the truth instead of a fact. 
She is probably far better-looking so — there in 
that light — than she is by nature — and the con- 
sciousness that she is made up, moreover, is by 
no means active in the spectator's mind. At the 
rehearsals Miss EUerton had been a pretty girl; 
here she was a beautiful woman. Very soon, 
indeed, Oliphant came to remember her as she 
was here and altogether forgot the comparatively 
insipid face which belonged to her by rights. It 
was a little shock to him the first time he saw 
her again in her o¥ni person — ^they had met in 
Oxford Street. But for the glamour of her 
identity, which nothing could destroy^ — ^the 
knowledge that she was the girl who inside the 
theatre affected him so powerfully — he would 
have felt the meeting sad. 

None the less he was delighted a few evenings 
later when she mentioned that her home was at 
Earl's Court and it was understood that he was 
to call there some afternoon. 

He went the foUowing Sunday — ^he would 
have gone before but for the dread of showing 

Digitized by 



himself impatient. The house that sheltered the 
goddess when he reached it was not imposing; 
but as he waited in the little drawing-room, with 
its dyed grasses, and photographs of Blanche 
EUerton on the mantelpiece, he smoothed his hair 
a trifle nervously. 

She came in to him a moment afterwards, and 
they exchanged preliminary platitudes. She was 
followed by her parents, and a sallow, unattrac- 
tive girl of about twenty, with high shoulders 
and a flat chest, who, he learnt with surprise, 
was her sister. There was tea, and, on his part 
at least, uneasiness. 

Mrs. EUerton was a thin, simple-looking 
woman, prematurely grey. Her destiny was 
to write novelettes to order. Novelettes that 
filled a couple of pages — longer novelettes issued 
at a halfpenny, between blue, pink, and green 
wrappers — ^novelettes that were "To be con- 
tinued in our next," all came alike to her pen. 
She took pleasure in the work, and was ashamed 
to be pleased by it, for she was keenly sensitive 
to ridicule. She was consoled by remembering 
that the money she obtained was indispensable. 
Blanche had earned a little as a child-actress 
before she was eleven, but the five pounds a 
week she was drawing from the Dominion was 
the highest salary to which she had attained. 

Digitized by 



and there were many months in which she earned 
nothing at alL 

The head of the family — the husband of the 
lady novelettist — ^was James Ellerton; he fre- 
quently reminded her of it — ^in fact, it was his 
misfortune that he could never forget it himself. 
He had formerly been a provincial actor — a call- 
ing he loathed — and as a provincial actor he 
might have contributed towards the household 
expenses to-day. Unhappily, some ten years 
since, he had written a very clever novel, which 
evoked most excellent reviews, and of which the 
publishers sold the fewest possible number of 
copies. For a writer who had been likened to 
Balzac — and he was — to continue to make a fool 
of himself on third-rate theatrical tours, or to 
say, "The dinner is served, madam," in London, 
he had felt to be incongruous. James Ellerton, 
in the Saturday Review, was "a distinguished 
novelist"; James Ellerton, in the theatre, was a 
nonentity to be snubbed and bullied. His suc- 
cess in literature gained him no jot of considera- 
tion from stage-managers and dramatic-agents — 
as the adaptation of a French melodrama would 
have done — for the simple reason that none of 
them knew anything whatever about it. He had, 
therefore, retired from the theatrical profession; 
and at very lengthy intervals produced two 

Digitized by 



further novels, which were reviewed highly also, 
and much admired — by the reviewers. Few 
other persons had heard of them. He was sup- 
ported, fitfully by the exertions of his elder 
daughter, and for the most part by his wife's 
novelettes, whose literary quality caused him 
acute disgust. She mentioned them in his pres- 
ence deprecatingly. 

"It's so nice to see you, Mr. Oliphant," she 
said. **We were all in front the first night, of 
course. I do hope it will go onl Do you think 
it wiU?" 

"I think that Miss EUerton's performance 
alone ought to be enough to draw all London," 
he said. 

"Oh, how lovely of you to say so! She's 
worked so hard, Blanche has; and she's never 
had what I call a 'real chance' till now. But 
the drama is so good in itself! I'm sure it ought 
to run. Mr. Ellerton thought highly of it; didn't 
you, James?" 

Mr. Ellerton had been considering — as he 
always did consider on being introduced to any- 
one — ^how to intimate that he was "a distin- 
guished novelist"; and he was grateful to her 
for making the opportunity. It would have been 
beneath his dignity to let her see it, however; 
the fiction of his importance — ^the importance of 

Digitized by 



his fiction — was maintained on the domestic 

"The literary quality of the dialogue," he said 
impressively, "of course appealed to me. There 
are lines that I would have written myself." 

"I'm glad you liked it," said Oliphant; "yes." 
He saw that the others were of the opinion that 
the elderly gentleman had paid him a great com- 
pliment, and was a little puzzled. The father 
wrote, then? — that was why he wore a brown 
velvet jacket. 

"Papa doesn't often praise a piece, I can tell 
you!" said Blanche. "He's so fiendishly critical. 
You know his books?" 

"I — I know the books in a sense," murmured 
Oliphant. "I'm ashamed to say I haven't read 

"There are some millions," said Mr. EUerton 
with a fine smile, "in the same position." He 
always said this, and said it rather welL "I 
am not — er — ^popular, Mr. Oliphant — I won't 
say 'successful,' for, as a detail, my novels obtain 
their — er — columns of eulogy in all the impor- 
tant papers." He waved the papers aside. "I 
have never consented to cheapen my style from 
commercial motives. It may be a weakness. I 
may be wrong." 

"I think it's the reverse," declared Oliphant; 

Digitized by 



"very much the reverse. To know he can afford 
to do his best work must be a literary man's 
greatest joy/* 

Mr. Ellerton bent his head, and smiled again — 

"It isr he said. 

"Oh, we're a very briUiant family," laughed 
the actress; "you've no ideal" 

"Do you write as well, Mrs. Ellerton?" 

"Oh, only a little," she faltered; ''my writing 

is My husband is the author. I write for 

papers; I've no time to think about a book." 

"You write more than a 'little' then?" 

"Well, they keep me busy," she confessed 
nervously; "don't they, James? Did I tell you 
that there's a note from Mr. Trussell asking for 
a ten-thousand-word story as soon as I can let 
him have it?" 

"How long does a story like that take to do?" 
Oliphant inquired. 

Under the influence of polite interest — an in- 
fluence to which she was so unaccustomed — ^the 
simple woman grew expansive. "Oh, not very 
long, if I keep at it; and I do when I've begun! 
Of course my tales aren't — aren't — what is the 
word, James?" 

" ^Serious,' " said the authority carelessly. 

"Yes, aren't 'serious,' " she continued, win- 


Digitized by 



cing — "in a literary sense my husband means. 
They're — they're written to suit the class of 
papers that want me; but they take hold of me 
while I'm doing them; and I don't like to put 
them down." 

"I can understand the fascination very well," 
answered the young man. "To keep seeing one- 
self in print, too, must be jolly 1" 

"The characters seem quite real to m^," she 
said, "and — and it's exciting when one gets them 
into some dreadful trouble, and doesn't quite 
know how they're going to get out of it. One 
doesn't worry, you knowl There are nights when 
I can't sleep because I keep asking myself how 

the heroine's going to be saved, and " She 

saw her husband's expression, and changed colour 
pathetically. "But it's absurd to talk about my 
writing in front of Mr. EUertonl I only play 
at it" 

"My wife's work has — er — ^has its merits," 
admitted the introspective novelist whom it kept. 
"It really isn't so bad as some of the stuff these 
papers trade in; I hope to see both her and 
Blanche advance considerably. And — if you 
persevere, Mr. OUphant — I think there's some- 
body else I shaU have to congratulate one of 
these days 1" 

"It won't be on my plays," said Oliphant 

Digitized by 



shortly; "I*m an actor." He was sorry to be 
conscious that he felt the visit was proving very 

All this time the girl in the background had 
said nothing except "How do you do?" but sat 
regarding Oliphant with hungry eyes. Though 
she was accustomed to men ignoring her, she 
yearned to be noticed by them, and she had 
always a passionate hope that the last one intro- 
duced would be the exception to the rule. The 
attention secured by her sister's brightness, her 
father's self-assertion, even by her mother's small 
talk, accentuated the force of her secret mortifi- 
cation. Life contained for her but one brief 
excitement. It was when she stood up in com- 
pany and played, in an amateurish, untrained 
way, some simple air on her violin, trembling to 
know that now, at least, men looked at her. At 
these moments there was, in the breast of the 
semi-deformed girl, the tumult of triumph and 
despair that belongs to a Paganini. But her skill 
was of the slightest, and nobody suspected, as 
she scraped "The Last Rose of Summer," that 
she felt much more than a mechanical toy. 

"Gertrude," said Mrs. Ellerton now, with a 
glance in her direction, "came home from the 
Dominion hysterical. How she cried there 1 So 
did I — I always do — but Grertrude sobbed." 

Digitized by 



"Did you, Miss EUerton?' 

She turned sick with the intensity of her desire 
to say something "good" — something that should 
stimulate his interest. She clasped her hands in 
her lap with an unspoken prayer. 

"Yes/' she said huskily, her face suffused with 
an unbecoming blush. 

"I wish it had been your business to write 
some of the notices. You'd have dealt more 
kindly with me." 

"Yes," she said. 

"The receipts are going up a little every eve- 
ning, though, lately; perhaps it may turn out 
well after all — ^it's possible. One can't say." 

"No," she said. 

"I wonder how much money Rayne has got?" 
exclaimed the leading lady; "do you think he can 
afford to wait till it works up into a draw? But 
I oughtn't to ask you that." 

"As a matter of fact I don't know," Oliphant 

"He ought to advertise it more. There are 
no advertisements — ^none to speak of. And — oh, 
these managers, these managers 1" 

"What were you going to say?" 

"Well, the advertisements he does put in — 
look at all the lines from the notices that he 
quotes! They're not the best, they're not the 

Digitized by 



finest by any means: because the best notices 
were got by me, and he doesn't want to advertise 
anybody but himself. 'Herbert Rayne's Latest 
Success!* And what of the author of the piece, 
and poor Blanche Ellerton?" 

"I'm afraid the author of the piece can't lay 
claim to many good notices," he laughed. 

Her mother despatched a warning glance. 
"Blanche is so frank, Mr. OKphant," she mur- 
mured; "she says too much sometimes." 

"Oh, Mr. Oliphant won't tell tales out of 
school, I know! Have I been indiscreet, Mr. 
Oliphant?" She smiled bewitchingly. 

"Why, I thought we were friends?" he said. 

"I feel perfectly safe in Mr. OUphant's hands 
— I'm not alarmed! But isn't it so? The lines 
that would tell go into the waste-paper basket. 
You know what the critics said of me! Did you 
see The World? Oh, did you see The World? 
I must show it you! Where is it, mother?" 

"Yes, I saw it," he said; "I brought you the 
cutting, if you remember." 

"Oh, so you did — so kind of you! Well" — 
her gesture was perhaps a Uttle unrestrained for 
a room — "these things aren't advertised, and 
there ought to be half a colmnn of them in all 
the papers! I've suffered in the same way aU 
through my career. They won't, they XDonft let 

Digitized by 



you get a better adjective than themselves — ^the 
vanity of a management is simply appalling 1" 

"I have never written for the theatre on that 
aceomit," observed the novelist; "I wouldn't do 
it. I would not consent to stultify my intention 
because an actor-manager demanded that he 
should be in the centre of the stage when he ought 
to be in his dressing-room. I always say one 
thing; I say: 'Come to me when you can forget 
that you are managing this house for your own 

glorification and then I'll write you a play. 

In the meanwhile, my dear sir, no! You don't 
suit me, and I shouldn't suit you.* They may 
be oflFended; but I say what I mean." 

"My husband won't give in," boasted Mrs. 
Ellerton feebly. "He'll never give in." 

"Nol Those are my principles, and I shall 
keep true to them. Possibly" — ^he lifted his eye- 
brows and his shoulders — "possibly I may be 
unwise 1" The doubt troubled him less because 
he had never been asked for a play in his life. 

"I know something of the difficulties of the 
profession, naturally," said Oliphant, addressing 
himself to the actress; "but surely you have noth- 
ing to be dejected about? You've done wonders." 

"Oh," she sighed, "if you knew what I've had 
to contend with in my career — ^the obstacles that 
would have crushed an ordinary girll I daresay 

Digitized by 



I shall take things more lightly in ten years' 
time; I suppose a woman does take them more 
lightly than a young girl" — ^her tone suggested 
that she was sixteen — "but, do you know, I 
simply writhe to-day at an injustice! Shall I 
ever forget when I went to New York with Mrs. 
Sweet-Esmond? She got me for twelve pounds 
a week, between ourselves — I accepted the oflFer, 
as I accepted these ridiculous terms at the 
Dominion, because the engagement meant an 
opportunity — and then she simply hated me be- 
cause I rehearsed the part well. 'Miss Ellerton,' 
she said, 'I have come to New York to make the 
success — not you!' Catl I think that tour with 
Mrs. Sweet-Esmond did more to — ^to destroy 
my childish trustfulness than anything in my 

He caught himself wishing that she would be 
satisfied to caU it her "life" occasionally, but he 
sympathised with her nevertheless. 

If her conversation had been phonographed 
and reproduced in his hearing without the play 
of her eyes, and the magic that her presence 
exercised upon him now, he would have judged 
it as fairly as anybody else. Had he gone to the 
house as the friend of another man who admired 
her, he would have judged it fairly too; and — if 
he had been a fool — he would have attempted 

Digitized by 



to convince the other man when they left that, 
apart from the inexplicable histrionic gift, there 
was "nothing in her." As it was, the blemishes 
which he could not overlook were only spots on 
the sun. They did distress him on his way home, 
but for the veriest instant. He even persuaded 
himself that they had a charm, because they im- 
plied a glimpse of the girl's real self — ^the thing 
which every man honestly in love, every man not 
a sybarite in the emotions, constantly tempts her 
to expose, instead of assisting her to veil. The 
man honestly in love is the eternal justification 
of the parable concerning the goose with the 
golden eggs. In truth, the longer the girl takes 
to become "real" to his sight, the longer his 
homage will last, though she may be able to dis- 
play as many virtues as eyelashes; for nearly 
every educated man is unconsciously an ideaUst 
in relation to the opposite sex, and rarely falls 
in love with a girl at all, but with a character 
quite different which her face suggests to him. 
That there are contented husbands is less a testi- 
monial to men's wisdom than to women's adapta- 
bihty and tact. "Familiarity breeds contempt" 
was a man's adage; as a reflection on feminine 
character it is a lie. Women are ideaUsts too, 
but they idealise their possessors; men idealise 
only what they seek to possess. The longer the 

Digitized by 



average woman lives with a man, assuming he 
is not a brute — and often when he is — ^the fonder 
of him she becomes; and on their silver-wedding 
she can kiss his hand if his finger-nails are dirty. 
But it is a severe chill to the average man's 
adoration the first time the woman he worships 
has a cold in the head. Royce Ohphant, however, 
was wooing severer chills. 

It was seven o'clock when he reached home, 
and Mrs. Tubbs, whom he met on the stairs, 
informed him that at about four o'clock a boy 
had brought a note for him. Oliphant opened 
it hastily, and read the pencilled message with 
astonishment. It was from Mr. Voysey, and 
stated that Rayne had been thrown from a cab, 
and rather seriously hurt. Would Oliphant play 
"Clement" the following evening? Voysey 
would be at the Eccentric Club till eleven, and 
must know to-night. 

He did not hesitate a second. To appear in 
the piece himself would no longer imperil its 
prospects, and now he would be able to show 
what he could do in a leading part. His chance 
had come. But this was not his paramount con- 
sciousness as he caught his breath. The thought 
that intoxicated him was that he was required 
to make passionate love to Blanche EUerton. 

Of course Rayne had an understudy — a novice 

Digitized by 



who was filling a minor role, and receiving two 
pounds a week; and of course the aggrieved 
understudy was almost the only person in the 
theatre who was surprised that he wasn't called 
upon to play the part now occasion arose. The 
understudy is frequently given cause for such 
surprise. But to substitute his unknown name 
for a favourite's if it can be avoided would be 
folly. If The Impostor had been a success, Oli- 
phant would not have been thought of either. 
The receipts, however, did not warrant another 
forty pounds being added to the salary list, and 
the actor-author was chosen as a compromise 
between a man with a reputation and the indig- 
nant tyro who had been praying that Rayne 
might be taken ill ever since the dress-rehearsal. 

Oliphant left the Eccentric Club with the part 
in his pocket, and walked about among the blue 
rep furniture of the Burton Crescent drawing- 
room, studying, till four in the morning. He 
really knew the lines almost as weU as Rayne 
himself, and his chief anxiety was the "business." 
He was now painfully alive to the importance of 
his opportimity, and when he permitted himself 
to realise that he was on the eve of appearing as 
leading man in London he shook. 

Mr. Voysey had written to all the principals 
whose addresses he remembered, and early next 

Digitized by 



day telegrams were despatched to the rest. At 
one o'clock Royce went through his scenes with 
them — ^nobody doing more than murmur the 
words — and then clothes had to be decided on, 
and a visit made to Shaftesbury Avenue to 
remedy defects; and his hair had to be trimmed, 
and some dress-ties bought, and a moustache 
selected; and dinner had to be swallowed — with 
the part propped against the cruet — and shoes 
had to be varnished, and his make-up box ex- 
amined, and a portmanteau packed; and after 
that he had to stretch himself on the sofa and 
try to sleep, tortured by the thought that some 
ghastly oversight would paralyse him when it 
was too late. 

When Edmund Kean walked into Drury Lane 
Theatre "with Shylock*s costmne in a bundle on 
his arm," he found it necessary to dress among 
the supernumeraries; when Royce Oliphant 
arrived at the Dominion, he was given the star 
room, and Rayne*s dresser, and all the appur- 
tenances of a position that he hadn't won. On 
the whole he thought he would rather have been 
without them, though he appreciated the blessing 
of a room to himself; he felt that if he made a 
failure, he would look doubly fooUsh for the 
grandeur. He was made up and dressed half 
an hour before his first entrance, and lay back 

Digitized by 



in an armchair beside the mirror, listening to the 
vague sounds from the passages and stage that 
crept through his nerves. A first performance 
in a company that are ah*eady at home in their 
parts is a far greater ordeal to an actor than a 
first night. At a first night the nervousness is 
general, and the artists do not criticise one an- 
other; but when one actor alone is new to the 
piece, his nervousness is quadrupled by his fear 
of his companions' opinions. 

"Curtain's up, sirl" remarked the dresser, 
returning with a box of cigarettes. 

"Thank you," said Oliphant; "how long have 
I got now?" 

"About twelve minutes — it's just on a quarter 
to nine when Mr. Rayne's caUed. Will you want 
anything after the first hact, sir?" 

"Yes, you might get me a small bottle of 
stout. But for heaven's sake don't be late for 
my change 1" 

He lit a cigarette, and waited for the caU-boy's 
summons. • • • 

" ^Clement!' Mr. Rayne, sir I" 

The wings seemed brighter and hotter than 
usual this evening; the glances that he caught 
looked anxious. He had still nearly two minutes. 
He walked round to the door in the canvas 
"flat" that he was to open^ and stood listening 

Digitized by 



intently. What was the prompter hanging about 
for? he knew what the cue was well enough I 
"Lady Plynhmmon's" voice thrilled him — she 
ought to get a laugh here. . . . Yes, it camel 
A line from "Maud/' and it would be the instant 
for him to burst into speech and enter. "My 
God," he said, "help mer The cue feU; and he 
turned the handle. 

Digitized by 



A FUBTHEB contrast to the Edmund Eean 
night was the fact that it wasn't "marvellous so 
few of them could kick up such a row," but the 
applause was hearty notwithstanding, and Oli- 
phant left the theatre a happy man. He had 
succeeded; he knew it; and the cordial congratu- 
lations of the company buzzed in his ears. Natu- 
rally the success lacked the splendour it would 
have had on the night of the production, before 
rows of Press men; still it eflFected a great deal. 
The Stage gave him a glowing paragraph in the 
next issue; The Era was equally generous on 
Saturday; and The Referee sweetened his Sun- 
day bloater by its hope that the managers would 
take care Mr. Royce Oliphant did not return 
to the provinces in a hurry — ^he had been hidden 
there too long. 

These things mean that many people drop into 
the theatre who would not go otherwise; though, 
as the majority of them gain admission by the 
presentation of their cards, their attendance is 
of less value to the box-office than to the artist 


Digitized by 



they come to see. The dramatic-agents, for 
instance, went to the Dominion; and those on 
whose books Mr. Royce Oliphant's name was 
not registered were loudest in advising him to 
put his trust in them. Two oflFers of "leading 
business" were made to him speedily; but one 
was for a spring tour, and the other was to sup- 
port an actress who was going to "star" in 
America; and he held fast to his resolution to 
remain in town. It looked as if he should be able 
to do so now! At any rate he had obtained a 
hearing, and he had been very fortimate. 

He had, indeed, been more fortunate than he 
quite reahsed, for not only had the opportunity 
not come too late, but — what was nearly as im- 
portant — it had not come too soon. Though he 
had much to master still, he had now gained the 
experience without which his talent could have 
made little or no impression. He had conquered 
the hardest of all histrionic tasks: he had learned 
to convey emotion as well as to feel it. Many 
other things he had had to learn : things unteach- 
able, and things that he might have been taught 
with ease — but which he had picked up with diffi- 
culty. The actor is taught nothing. When he 
blunders at rehearsal, the stage-manager tells 
him to "do it the other way," and he obeys; and 
in a diflFerent situation the "other way" may be 

Digitized by 



a clumsy way. If he is astute and assiduous, and 
an enthusiast, he may, by acquiring one wrinkle 
from the part he plays in January, and another 
from the next, which he plays in June, know very 
nearly as much in five years of the "tricks" of 
the stage, as they are foolishly termed, as he 
could have been shown at a Conservatoire in 
three weeks. He has attained by this time quali- 
ties which no Conservatoire could have conferred, 
but he is like an author beginning to make effects 
with a language while he is still ignorant of its 

However, Oliphant had profited more than 
most young men by the seven years that he had 
served for his Ideal, and such excellent accounts 
of his performance reached Herbert Rayne that 
the invalid suffered a twinge of professional 
jealousy. Royce himself was radiant. Miss 
EUerton filled his thoughts — ^Miss EUerton more 
than ever confused with her assumption of 
"Lady Maud Elstree" — and elation and love 
rendered these days the most delicious that he 
had known in his life. 

When he had been playing "Clement" rather 
more than a week, he congratulated her one eve- 
ning, during their first conversation. 

"What about?" she inquired, opening sur- 
prised blue eyes. 

Digitized by 


TME ACitoR-MAKAGEft li« 

''I'm told that Rayne will be able to come back 
very soon." He laughed. "You'U have some- 
body to act up to you again!" 

"M-mm!" she said. 

"You know you're relieved to hear it?" 

"Am I?" 

"Well, aren't you— truth?" 

"What do you want to know for?" 

"Because I'm so conceited; I want to be 

"Well — ^go and read your notices 1" 

"I could write them to you. Tell me; aren't 
you glad Rayne is coming back?" 

"Look out," she exclaimed, starting forward; 
"there's my cuel" 

He moved to the prompt-entrance, and 
watched her — a different woman in an instant, 
with dignity in her bearing and sorrow in her 
face. Familiar as he was with the environment, 
he was momentarily sensible of the strangeness 
of the thing. When they were both in the wings 
again — it was after the act-drop had fallen, and 
she was hurrying towards her dressing-room — 
she flashed a glance over her shoulder and threw 
him her answer: 

"No — I'm sorry 1" she said, with a smile that 
blinded him. He would have overtaken her, 
though she ran swiftly, but staggering scene- 

Digitized by 



shifters intervened, and the walls of "Lady 
Plynlimmon's" dismembered mansion blocked 
his way. Behind the footlights all was chaos 
now, and there was his own change of costume 
to be made. The dresser said: "It's a good 'ouse 
to-night, ain't it, Mr. Holiphant?" but he scarcely 
heard the question, nor the depressed addendum 
that "No doubt a deal of it was piper 1" He was 
engrossed by the knowledge that she would be 
"sorry," and that he would be sorry — sorrier even 
than he had understood. 

But when he attempted to tell her so, she 
declined to be sentimental, and he returned to 
the dresser's ministrations sadly. 

There was a card stuck in the looking-glass 
now, and he saw with surprise that the name 
on it was Otho Fairbaim. At the back was 
scribbled: "I'm in the stalls, and want to come 
round afterwards." 

"Tucker," he said. 

"Yes, sir." 

"Tell the doorkeeper that when Mr. Fairbaim 
asks for me, he is to come in, please." 

Oliphant was in his vest and trousers, remov- 
ing his make-up, :when Mr. Fairbaim was con- 
ducted to the room. 

"Don't shake hands with me — I'm all vase- 

Digitized by 



line/' said Oliphant. ''How are you, old man? 
When did you come back?" 

"My dear fellow," cried Fairbairn, beaming, 
"you're perfectly 'immense' 1 I do congratulate 
you, upon my word I I didn't dream you had 
it in you. I say, you are going it, with your own 
piece, tool What did they cut it up for? I 
think it's very good. Well, how are you, eh?" 

"I'm all right," said OHphant; "awfully glad 
to see you again. Sit down somewhere — Tucker, 
clear a chair, will you? Have you come from 

"Yes; I was going to Cairo, but I don't think 
I shall. You've got to come and have supper 
with me at the club ; I want to hear all the news, 
don't you know. Don't say you aren't freel" 

His evident pleasure at the meeting would 
have been infectious even if the sight of his fair 
boyish face had not been agreeable to OHphant 
always. He still looked so rosily, peacefully 
young; and his affectations were so innocent, 
because he was deceived by them himself. Per- 
haps because he was conscious of the weakness 
of his character, he was perpetually adopting a 
new one — for an hour or a season. A year or 
two before, the Turf had been the only thing 
worth living for — he avowed the opmion frankly, 
and gloried in it; but six months later he was 

Digitized by 



attempting to demonstrate to his associates the 
hoUowness of their pm*suits and talking earnestly 
of the responsibiUties of wealth, and the beauty 
of a self-sacrificing hfe in the East End. The 
phase lasted the entire autmnn» and was suc- 
ceeded by an interval of Schopenhauer-worship, 
in which he expressed his preference for soUtude, 
with a pipe and his bookshelves, in such perf ervid 
terms as to offend several of his dearest friends. 
Allusions to the latest character that he had re- 
signed were received by him with disapproval; 
and the still ehgible women whom he took down 
to dinner once in six months were frequently em- 
barrassed by their doubt whether to approach 
him on the subject of Theosophy or golf. 

One of the truest sentiments that he had 
uttered sprang to his girlish lips when he and 
Ohphant had supped, and, having lighted cigars, 
lolled opposite each other before a fire. 

"I do envy your having an aim in lifel" he 

^TTes ; it's a very good thing if your aim is true. 
It means a big disappointment if it isn't," said 
Oliphant, rather startled. 

"It's a good thing anyhow, Royce. The secret 
of enjoyment is Endeavour and Purpose. Look 
at me — what am I? I'm miserable. I'll take 
my oath I'd change with a happy mechanic." 

Digitized by 



"Rotl" said Oliphant. "This is new, isn't it? 
YouVe always struck me as appreciating your 
advantages very thoroughly." 

"What I want," said Fairbaim, emitting 
circlets of smoke and contemplating them, "is 
love, Royce. Believe me, everything else is a 
bubble. The happiest man isn't the wealthy man, 
or the famous man, but the man who has the love 
of a good woman. There's no blessing so great." 

"No," said the lover; "no; there I'm with you." 

"Mais cherchez la femme! Oof's a big draw- 
back, old man. I never get a woman who cares 
for me; other chaps dol I want a big passion, 
Oliphant; I want a woman to renounce the world 
or something for me. I suppose there are women 
who renounce things for fellows? But damned 
if I see 'eml There are plenty to pretend, if I 
like to pay for the amusement — some want 
jewellery, and some want settlements — ^but I 
don't get near the middle lot who would love me 
if I were a Government clerk." 

"Why don't you read for the Bar, or do some- 
thing like that?" said Oliphant. "And you used 
to write; have you quite given that up?" 

Fairbaim nodded. "Let's have a whisky-and- 
soda!" he said. "Yes; I get nothing but disillu- 
sions. I see a girl — beautiful girl; good family, 
nice figure, not a point to find fault with. Well, 

Digitized by 



perhaps I think I'd like to make that girl my 
wife. But she wants to marry me. How can a 
fellow fall in love with a girl who wants to marry 
him? I was at the Opera Ball the night before 

I left " 

"You didn't see her there, did you?" 
"Don't chaff, old man — I feel very deeply on 
the subject; I do, really. I say I was at the 
Opera Ball the other night, and I saw another 
girl — well, she'd the face of a goddess, a face to 
die for I I can't tell you how intensely she affected 
me as I watched her. She was standing alone; 
but I didn't go over to her, because I knew that 
to hear her speak would be disenchantment. It 
struck me that that was typical of everything in 
my life, Oliphantl Is this the Scotch, waiter? 
Yes, the Scotch for me. I wrote some verses 
when I got back to the hotel. *Don't take off 

your mask ' Nol What is it? I forget the 

beginning. • • • One of them goes like this — 

*^Do not speak, I pray, ma mignonne, 
For *Things are not what they seem', 
And I know your voice would surely 
Dissipate my drunken dream. 
Muse a moment mutely so, dear, 
With your cheek upon your hand. 
While I worship what you are not — 
What you would not understand!" 

Digitized by 



"It's very pretty," said Oliphant. 

"I wish I could remember the rest," said 
Fairbaim more cheerfully; "I think the sadness 

underlying the cynicism is rather Eh? Oh, 

everything's a selll The world's grown too old 
to be lively — ^how our sons will amuse themselves 
Heaven alone knows 1 Paris is a sell — where are 
the grisettes and the romance ? When you expect 
the descriptions you've always received to be 
realised, they say, * Ah, that used to be 1' It never 
was in my time, though. And in New York, 
when you want to see the things you've heard of 
aU your life, they say, *Ah, that was oncet* It 
seems to me you and I were born too late. I was 
at Brighton last season — I believe the most 
beautiful women in Europe were to be found at 
Brighton during the season 'once.' I said I 
should like to see one or two of them this time. 
*Ah, people don't come here as they didl' I'm 
trying to find the place that exists to-day. But 
if I give Cairo a chance I know it'll be a fraud, 
and when I complain I shall be told, *Ah, you're 
talking of twenty years ago I' " 

"Is that why you are here?" 

"Well, I should have seen your piece, anyhow; 
I meant to stay in town a night on purpose. I 
say, that girl who plays 'Maud,' Miss — what's 

Digitized by 



her name? — is good-looking. She's a clever 
actress, too." 

"Miss EUerton," said the actor, gazing at the 

"Yes, 'EUerton,' that's it! Is she— er " 

"She's a very fiile actress indeed, and a lady; 
and — and her father's a literary man," broke in 
Oliphant hmriedly. "A charming family alto- 

"I suppose you meet everybody now, eh — all 
the celebrities? It must be a change from the 
provinces, by Jovel You'll go to the top of the 
tree with a rush, I expect. Well, you deserve 

" *Go to the top with a rush' — ^what are you 
talking about? I'm likelier to be 'up a tree' than 
at the top of it; there are more difficulties in the 
way than you imagine." 

"Oh, boshl" said the other, with the easy assur- 
ance of the friend who knows nothing of the 
matter; "you're always so doubtful of yourself. 
You're miles ahead of half the best men in Lon- 
don. You don't appear to be acting, that's what 
fetched me. Why don't you take a theatre?" 

"Why don't I what?" said Oliphant, staring. 

"Why don't you take a theatre?" repeated 
Fairbaim in the tone in which he might have 

Digitized by 



said, **Why don't you take a cab?" "It's the 
thing to do, isn't it? FU go in with you." 

"My dear fellow, do you regard me as the 
most conceited man of your acquaintance? It's 
very kind of you to suggest such a thing; but I 
shouldn't draw twopence, and I know it." 

"You're a damned fool," said his host casually. 
"The men who get on are the chaps who don't 
know what modesty means. *You must stir it, 
and stump it, and blow your own trumpet, or 
trust me you haven't a chance.' Wouldn't you 
like to have your own theatre, and play Hamlet? 
You used to talk enough about it, I remember. 
Bored us to death 1" 

"Ah," murmured Royce, "that's another ques- 
tion! Would I *like it'? Oh yes, I'd ^like it.' 
I'd like to play Hamlet, and I'd like to have my 
own theatre. Both. Either. Whether I shall 
ever realise the dream — or half the dream — only 
the good gods know. Hamlet 1 — in London 1 
• • ." He shook himself and laughed. "Oh, 
man, why send me home dissatisfied? I was 
rather puffed up by my present advance when 
I came." 

"But I'm perfectly serious I" protested Fair- 
bairn. "If you'd like to have a shot at a theatre, 
I'll go in with you. I won't make you any 
presents — you needn't be afraid of that. We'U 

Digitized by 



do it on commercial lines. We'll find out the 
square thing, and " 

Oliphant extended his hand, with a flush on his 
face. "You're a trump, Othol" he exclaimed: 
"you're a friend in a million! The idea is pre- 
posterous, I assure you. It's — it's years too 
soon; one takes a theatre when one has a follow- 
ing. But — ^well, you're a pall" 

He did not make his way towards home "dis- 
satisfied," nevertheless. The proposal, wild as 
it was, had excited him temporarily; and with 
the effervescence of fancy, his mood was gay. 
London — already the City of Recollections to 
him — pulsed with promise. Overhead the stars 
were brilliant, and an artificial radiance tinged 
the puddles on the road. In the stillness of 
Southampton Row his reverie broke into voice: 
" *0, speak again, bright angel I' " he cried; and 
an unexpected policeman scrutinised him as he 
passed. Heavens, how absurd he was I But he 
returned to Bloomsbury for a moment only, and 
in the next he was under the balcony again, where 
Blanche Ellerton leant as Juliet. And he spoke 
Romeo's lines — beyond the hearing of the police- 
man — until he trembled at the Burton Crescent 

"Mr. Rayne will resume the part to-morrow 
evening." There was no exultance in his mood 

Digitized by 



then. Could he ever have exulted? The theatre 
has heartaches "peculiarly its own" — ^which was 
the phrase by which Mrs. Ellerton habitually 
described the grace of her heroines. To see a 
part that has been played during months by the 
woman he loves represented by her successor 
means a heartache to an actor; and a bad heart- 
ache, accentuated by every familiar line the new- 
comer delivers — in such different tones from the 
voice he is used to hear. Often she wears the 
same frocks — ^which are eloquent to him by asso- 
ciation — and mocks him with a poignant resem- 
blance to the woman who is miles away, or dead, 
until she turns her face. Perhaps this is the 
worst. It hurts, though, on the eve of leaving 
the company himself to act with a girl who is 
dear to him. To-morrow night the story will 
be played again — she will be listening as she is 
listening now; only, he will be absent, and an- 
other man will speak the words to her instead. 
No child sits in the dress-circle to whom the 
scenery says so much as to the young actor who 
is bidding it good-bye at a time like this; he tries 
to impress the picture on his brain, that not a 
detail may be missing from his memory of her, 
and feels for the rooms of canvas all the tender- 
ness with which one quits a home. 

Certainly Royce would retain the advantage 

Digitized by 



of being the author — ^he could still talk to Miss 
EUerton during her waits, as he had done before 
the eventful Monday; but when he entered the 
Dominion for his last performance there he was 

As the piece progressed, sentimentality swayed 
him wholly. He might never act with her any 
more. He felt as if he were falling from heaven 
to a blank. Each minute was precious, and he 
would have caught it and prevented its escape. 
The result might have been foretold, though it 
was unpremeditated — he confessed in the love- 
scenes all that he longed to confess in the wings; 
and in the situation where he had to clasp her 
to him in despair, and swear he wouldn't let her 
go, he lost control of himself in reality. The 
approval of the audience was ardent — there was 
the loudest round of applause that had been 
heard in the house since The Impostor was pro- 
duced. But when Oliphant led Miss Ellerton 
before the curtain and they made their bows, 
they didn't look at each other. 

"May I speak to you?" he said presently, 
when she came downstairs dressed to leave the 

"Mr. Oliphant?" 

"Yes, I've been waiting to speak to you; I 
can't go without speaking to you." Yet for a 

Digitized by 



moment he could find nothing to say. "You 
know, don't you? Blanche, I love youl" 

She was at the foot of the staircase. The stage 
was so dark now that her pale face was indistinct; 
he could see little more than that it was hers. 
*TDo you care for me at all? If I get on, will 
you marry me?" Some of his life seemed to 
leave his mouth with the last question. He 
touched her hand diffidently — there was a glove 
on it, and the cold suede chilled him. "Blanche?" 

After a long silence she said: 

"YouVe siu*prised me very much. I Oh, 

no; I don't mean to marry for years and years 1" 

'"Why not?" he asked in a dreary voice. 

"It would hamper me frightfully. And be- 
sides " 

"And besides I'm nothing to you?" 

"Oh, you're not to say that," she returned; 
"you're a friend; and I hope you'll keep one. 
Our friendship has been so charming and so in- 
teresting, hasn't it? It would be simply horrid 
if we could never talk together again just because 
of this." She smiled. "You will forget, I'm 

"No," he said, "I shan't forget. If— if I 
remember long enough — if I succeed — will there 
be a chance for me then?" 

"Oh," she exclaimed, "but I'm not going to 

Digitized by 



many for years and years and years, I tell you! 
Marriage is a mistake for a young girl in the 
profession, imless she marries somebody very 

"But — but if you loved me, Blanche?" 
*TDon't let us talk nonsense; very likely I 
shan't marry at all; I shall live and die an old 
maid. Can you see me? with a cap, and pepper- 
and-salt ringlets! • . . We shall remain friends, 
shan't we? I must say *Good-night' — I've my 
train to catch.'* 

"May I walk to the station with you?" 
"Yes, if you like. But you're not to be foolish, 

They passed through the passage and turned 
into the Strand — which was henceforth to have 
to him yet another memory. The bright decision 
of her tones at once intensified his suffering, and 
precluded the possibility of his finding further 
words; he did not disobey her verbally. On the 
Temple platform he closed the door of the first- 
class compartment that she selected, and yearned 
at her with wide eyes through the glass till the 
train rushed on. She was praying meanwhile 
that it would be quick to start, for she held only 
a third-class ticket. 

Now she was gone. The line was empty; and 
he moved heavily away into the street. 

Digitized by 



He determined not to go near the Dominion 
for a week, and it was two days before he did go. 
Then he denied himself the stage-door and went 
into the dress-circle. It was delicious pain. It 
is, of course, desirable to bear "the pangs of 
despised love" for any woman — "the beautiful 
time when one was so unhappy" cannot, in fact, 
be repeated too often — but to be wretched for an 
actress is best of all; the emotion is richer and 
morfe varied than being miserable for a girl in 
Society. A man refused by a girl in Society, for 
example, cannot feast his eyes on her features 
and get intoxicated on the sweetness of her voice 
for two hours and a half without her knowing he 
is there. Oliphant availed himself of the oppor- 
timities of his position for a fortnight to the 
fullest extent. 

That he did not avail himself of them longer 
was because they temporarily ceased to exist. 
The Impostor was withdrawn, and Miss Eller- 
ton, like himself, was out of an engagement. In 


Digitized by 



her advertisements in The Era she called it 

He now regretted that he had not gone "be- 
hind" of tener after the evening of his declaration. 
He could see her from the dress-circle when she 
played another part; but when would he be able 
to stand beside her in the wings again? Perhaps 
never 1 

Fortunately there were other matters to oc- 
cupy his mind. Excepting that enough remained 
of the hundred pounds to spare him pecimiary 
anxiety, his situation really appeared much the 
same as before The Impostor was produced. 
That his performance of "Clement" had borne 
good fruit he knew; but the fruit was not ripe — 
or he could not reach it. Momentarily he seemed 
no better o£P than if there had not been any fruit 
at alL The Press had said that the London 
managers ought to snap him up ; but they didn't. 
Nobody displayed the least eagerness to prevent 
his returning to the provinces; the agents talked 
about the provinces as persistently as ever. 
Much better parts, much better salaries, were 
oflFered to him, but always for tour. 

Then at last he did obtain an engagement in 
the West End; and once more the criticisms he 
received were exceUent; but the piece had as 
short a run as his own, and he was not needed 

Digitized by 



for the next. All the same he might now have 
remained in town. He was not wanted as a hero, 
because so many of the theatres are in the hands 
of actor-managers, who are their own heroes; 
but he could have remained in town, and earned 
ten or even fifteen pounds a week before the year 
ended, for there are very few professions better 
paid than the stage when once one turns the 
comer. His stumbling-block was love. 

It happened that in the Green Room Club, one 
afternoon, he met Rayne. Rayne had lost a 
good deal of money by Oliphant's drama; and 
as "The Great Dominion Success,'* he was hop- 
ing it would put something back in his pocket 
by means of an autimm tour. There were about 
half a dozen dramas "on the road" at this time 
described as "The Great Dominion Success"; 
some of them had run there a whole month. 

"How are you?" he said. "I was just going 
to drop you a line about the play. I suppose you 
wouldn't care to go out with it?" 

"Oh, no; I don't want to go on tour," said 

"Well, it's for the autumn, you know; every- 
body will be on tour in the autumn. I go on 
tour myself, with Erskine." 

"Oh, you don't go out with it then?" 

"I can't afford it — I can't afford to throw 

Digitized by 



away a big salary, my boy. No, I'm sending it 
out with the cheapest company I can get to- 
gether. It occurred to me that it might be worth 
your while to play 'Clement* for the sake of the 
piece. The better it goes, the better for you 
as the author.'* 

"Humph r* said Oliphant. 

"If it does well, there are your fees for years; 
if it does badly, that's the end of it — short, sharp, 
and decisive. I've no more money to lose, I can 
tell you; by George, the Dominion nearly ruined 

"The cheapest company you can get together?" 
said Oliphant ruefully. ''The Impostor wants 
acting; it won't play to great business with a 
cheap crowd, I'm afraid." 

"It must take its chance. I did all I could for 
it here, and then what was the business like? I 
haven't got back the hundred I put down on the 
contract. I'm not sure the wisest course wouldn't 
be to accept the loss and let the whole thing slide ; 
I'm not sure of it by any means 1" 

Oliphant looked round the room without 
speaking. It was Saturday and the tables were 
already laid for the house-dinner, though it was 
only three o'clock. A few actors were playing 
poker near the small fire-place; a few others 
lounged by the big one, puffing cigarettes; but 

Digitized by 



not many members were present yet — the room 
would fill after the matinees finished. 

Rayne shifted his cigar between his teeth, and 
continued with elaborate carelessness: 

"Of course 'Clement* and *Maud' otight to be 
in good hands — and 'Maud' IVe got. If you 
had seen your way to play 'Clement' at very low 
terms, I think the tour would have been safe." 

"You've got 'Maud'?" asked OUphant. 
"What's she like?" 

"Oh, Miss Ellerton goes out with the piece; 
I've managed that. I thought you knew." 

He knew perfectly that he did not know; he 
had been leading up to the announcement from 
the beginning of the conversation. That OU- 
phant had been in love with Blanche Ellerton, 
and that Blanche EJUerton might have been fond 
of Oliphant, had meant a possibility of obtaining 
two good artists at much less than their ordinary 
salaries. He had been on the stage too long to 
overlook it. With the girl, however, he had 
failed ; she did not reduce her terms a pound when 
he mentioned that Mr. Oliphant — ^whom he had 
not seen then — had "practically settled with 
him." Oliphant, therefore, would have to reduce 
his tremendously I In his heart, indeed, Rayne 
was a shade sorry for Oliphant. "Still, as Eller- 
ton was engaged at her own figure, it was only 

Digitized by 



fair that some of it should be contributed by her 
mash!" That was how he put it afterwards to 
the lady he loved. 

"All right," said Oliphant, "I'U go. How 
much do you want to pay?" 

"My dear boy," answered Rayne, "I'm 
ashamed to tell you. Upon my soul I ami" 

He overcame his reluctance; and even the 
lover started before he said "Yes." However, 
he did say "Yes." He would have said "Yes" 
to thirty shillings a week in view of the induce- 
ment offered. On tour with Blanche! He 
walked down Bedford Street intoxicated by the 

To the ordinary person there would seem little 
that is attractive in a mode of life that involves 
occupying diflFerent lodgings every six days, and 
undertaking a railway journey to another town 
every Sunday, and indeed Oliphant had come to 
dislike it himself; but a goddess can change dis- 
comfort to delight as easily as a fairy turns a 
pumpkin into a chariot. 

The tour conmienced at Northampton on the 
August Bank Holiday. The evenings, of course, 
were much the same as the evenings at the 
Dominion; but now there was no need to wait 
until evening for a glimpse of Miss Ellerton. 
Almost every fine morning, if he were patient 

Digitized by 



enough, he could be certain of meeting her in the 
Drapery; and then what more natiu'al than that 
he should accompany her on her way? Occa- 
sionally they forsook the shop-windows — ^the 
shop-windows of Northampton are not the most 
alluring — and wandered through Hardingstone 
Fields, where there is nothing to remind the 
pedestrian of shoe manufactories and pork-pies, 
and the country is as sylvan as if there were not 
a chimney within a hundred miles. 

From Northampton The Impostor proceeded 
to Leicester, but the name, the industry, of the 
town they happened to be in was really of very 
slight consequence to the players. Whether the 
chief thoroughfare was called the "Drapery** or 
the "High Street," whether the theatre was 
known as the "Royal" or the "Grand," their 
habits and the piu'suits remained the same. A 
touring actor's world moves with him on Sunday. 
On Monday when he wakes up in another city, 
his surroundings are to all intents and purposes 
what they were in the last city the day before. 
The characteristics of the streets impress him 
very little — ^he views so many new streets — and 
the myriad dwellings contain nothing but stran- 
gers to him wherever he may be. The population 
is merely the "public," whose raison d'etre is 
to go to see the "show." His friendships, his 

Digitized by 



quarrels, his interests are in the theatrical com- 
pany in which he is engaged. 

The drama did not attract the provincial play- 
goers in large numbers, but the author was not 
severely chagrined. So long as he could saunter 
beside Blanche Ellerton in the morning, and now 
and again call upon her in the afternoon, he wto 
able to pardon the box-office record. The after- 
noon visits, indeed, with tea in the twilight, were 
the rarest privileges of all, and by and by they 
held moments in which he was convinced it wasn't 
conceited to feel that she was fond of him. 

And he was right. When this conviction con- 
vulsed him it was the middle of October. For 
nearly three months they had been constantly in 
each other's society. They had been in each 
other's arms on the stage at night, and walked 
and talked together during the day. When the 
towns afforded opportunities, they had made 
little excursions — to the Castle from Leaming- 
ton; to Jesmond Dene from Newcastle-on-Tyne. 
Because he was curious about her Juliet, they 
had read the Balcony Scene together in her lodg- 
ings; her Juliet perhaps would not have pleased 
him quite so much if it had been imybody's else, 
but then her ambition did not lie in the direction 
of Shakespeare and blank verse. He had shown 
her he adored her in the most flattering way— 

Digitized by 



by endeavouring to conceal it in obedience to her 
command. She was a very practical young 
woman; she had erected as many "warnings" for 
her guidance through Ufe as disfigure Hamp- 
stead Heath; but, being a woman and young, it 
was not astonishing that her feelings should have 

She did not succumb to the weakness without a 
struggle, and she mourned the circimistances by 
which the weakness was caused. She had always 
hoped to marry an influential man possessing a 
large income; influential, because she did not wish 
to contract a marriage that would necessitate 
her leaving the theatre, but longed for notoriety; 
possessing a large income, because she loved 
luxury — more, fcad a passion for it; thirsted to 
see her figure in s>ilk petticoats and satin corsets, 
and to let them fall to the floor indifferently when 
she undressed, since she had so many of them; 
wanted to lie in a perfumed bath, and have her 
maid bring her chocolate; and be surprised by a 
friend as she nestled over her bedroom fire in a 
wrapper that cost more than her best frocks to- 
day. It had been her aim to avoid any errors 
of judgment that would increase her difficulties; 
and now she had been idiotic enough to become 
fond of an actor without reputation or means. 
Yes, Blanche Ellerton regretted having signed 

Digitized by 



for the tour of The Impostor very keenly when 
she was cahn; only she was not always calm, and 
these moments in which she shielded to sentiment 
were as exquisite to herself as to the man she 

Nevertheless she had no intention of shielding 
to it unreservedly, and she wondered if it would 
take her long to forget him when they separated; 
if the nonsensical ache would be bad to bear. 
The tour was drawing to a close, and after it 
finished, of coiu-se, they would scarcely meet. 
That was well! Perhaps he might come out to 
Earl's Court once or twice, but not oftener cer- 
tainly. Once or twice couldn't be helped. If 
she had not asked him to call when they were 
at the Dominion, however, she need never have 
seen him again at all. How stupid she had been 
to ask him I Still she had acted from business 
motives; he had been very taken with her, and 
how could she know but what he might have 
another play produced in London soon? Yes, 
she had been quite right — ^that she would be a 
fool about him later was a thing she couldn't 
foresee. She stretched her arms above her head 
and yawned. Heigho, these beastly rooms! 

Oh, she was dull! What a shame it was that 
a woman like herself should be moped in poky 
lodgings, and have to buy two-and-elevenpenny 

Digitized by 



house-shoes I And she had such pretty feet I 
Royce would . . . yes, Royce would like her 
feet. . . . How ridiculously he thought of her I 
— ^and she had really been quite candid that night 
when he popped. Perhaps not quite so candid 
since. When one liked a man, of course one did, 

naturally, take a little pose of Well, one 

sjrmpathetically adopted his favourite key. A 
woman, though, would have known her for ever 
after that night. . . . Men were very much nicer 

than women. If He was a darling! Why 

wasn't she a woman who could afford to be 
absurd? it would be lovely to marry him I 
Wouldn't it be lovely? She wasn't yearning 
now, she was smiling. The street-door bell rang, 
and she quivered with a hope which she felt to be 
childish, for he never came unless he was invited. 

It was his voice! She sprang up, and dragged 
the powder-puff from her pocket, and pulled at 
her favourite curl, and threw herself back in a 
graceful position before he had wiped his boots. 

"'Come in," she said languidly. Then on a 
note of surprise: "Fow?" 

"Am I in the way?" asked Oliphant, his eyes 
devouring her. "I've had good news, and I — I 
wanted to tell you about it." 

"Good news ? No ; sit down, do 1 What is it ?" 

"It's an offer." 

Digitized by 



"For London?" 

"Yes, more! I go to the Pantheon. Greatorex 
oflFers me Faust!" 

It does not merit contempt that her first emo- 
tion was a pang of jealousy; or, if you must 
be contemptuous, despise human nature and 
not Blanche Ellerton. It was inevitable that 
she should be envious. For an actor to be 
chosen from the provinces to play "seconds" to 
Greatorex — ^to create such a part as Faust before 
a first-night audience at the Pantheon — ^was 
almost the highest conceivable compliment. The 
Impostor company had been shaken to the core 
recently when the whisper ran round the dress- 
ing-rooms that "Greatorex was in front." They 
had watched him from the wings, and acted at 
him from the stage; they had all — even to the 
hmnblest among them — dreamed their dreams in 
secret for a day or two and pictured the opening 
of a note that would mean that their abilities 
were recognised at last. And the unlikely 
honour of an "offer" from Greatorex had fallen 
— but on Mm; and she remained where she was. 

"I am so glad," she murmured. "Well, you 
are simply made nowi" 

"I'm on the road, I think," he said. "I ought 
never to look back after this if I*m all right in 
the part. Of coiu'se I'm already quaking with 

Digitized by 



the ghastly misgiving that I shan't be found all 

"What nonsense! Besides, it will be all 
Mephistopheles, you may be sure/* She couldn't 
help saying that, and after it was uttered she 
felt more generous towards him. "You'll be a 
success/' she added ; "I'm certain of it. I'll come * 
and see you." 

"WiU you? Not the first night? Good 
heavens, how nervous I shall be I" 

"I don't suppose I could get seats for the first 
night if I tried. You may send me a couple 
if you like; but I daresay you won't be able to 
get them either. I say, you will be a swell now; 
how you'll look down on us poor people I" 

Oliphant laughed, with a reproach on his face. 
"If I'm anxious to get on, it's that you may like 
me better." 

"What a cruel thing to say 1" she replied, smil- 
ing. "And what a story, too! Didn't you want 
to get on before we knew each other?" 

"Not so much." 

"Now you're making fun of me — that's un- 
kind. When did you hear? You must tell me 
all about it!" 

She did not want to talk herself yet; she 
wanted to think. She looked musingly at the 
"Weighing of the Deer," surmounted by a Japa- 

Digitized by 



nese fan, between the windows. The question in 
her mind was, How much difference did this piece 
of luck make? Common-sense answered ''None/' 
firmly. His engagement might be a thing of 
the past in six months, and have left him just 
what he was now, excepting that for the rest of 
his life he would pepper his conversation with 
inapposite remarks, beginning, ''That reminds 
me of an experience I had when I was with 
Greatorex." No, it could make no difference 
to anybody who wasn't a love-sick girl eager to 
find an excuse for being silly 1 A few months' 
rapture. And the price? Two-and-elevenpenny 
slippers to the day she died; a cheap existence 
burdened with babies, and enhvened by the 
perusal of panegyrics passed on the women who 
had outstripped her in the race! 

"Supposing," said Oliphant, "I get good 
notices, and I remain there for the next pro- 
duction, and for years?" 

"I hope you will." 

"It would be a grand engagement — one could 
scarcely hope for anything finer." 

"You'd have been very fortunate indeed." 

He left his seat, and went over to her side. 

"You said if you married, it would have to be 
a successful man. Blanche, I am succeeding; 

Digitized by 



and with you Oh, we should go right to the 

top together 1" 

She bit her lip, and her eyelids fell. 

^'Blanche — ^may I call you Blanche?" 

'"Yes," she said, almost inaudibly. 

''Blanche, my darling, be kind to me I Oh, 
marry me, for God's sake — now, to-morrow! 
LfCt's risk everything! You shall never regret 
it. I swear you shan't! Will you?" 

She shook her head; she didn't wish to trust 
her voice again just yet. 

"Don't you like me at all?" he demanded 
impetuously. "Not a little bit?" Her silence 
continued, but her head was motionless. He 
dropped on to the stool beside her armchair and 
seized her hands, and showered kisses on them 
till she snatched them away because they were 
playing her false. 

"Oh, be sensible!" she exclaimed. "In a year 
we should hate each other!" 

"I would worship you! You don't know me 
if you think I could ever love you less." 

"I know myself. I wasn't meant for domes- 
ticity in the back-parlour — I wasn't meant for 
domesticity at all. I'm an artist; I've my own 
life to live, my own ambitions to satisfy. I want 
to be paragraphed, and interviewed, and photo- 
graphed, and run after. You couldn't give me 

Digitized by 



one of these things I want. I know it — I know it 
as well as if I'd been your wife ten years. Quite 
the reverse I You'd make everything more diffi- 
cult for me — impossible for me I If you do get 
on, what then? What good will it do m^?" 

"I'd buy the world for you I" 

"With good intentions? You can never be a 

rich man, my dear boy and if you marry, you 

will always be a poor one. You may succeed — 
I think you wiU succeed — ^but your success will 
mean a name, not a fortune. Then what have 
you to oflFer for spoiling my career? Am I to be 
content to sit in the stalls all my life, and hear 
you applauded?" She beat the treacherous hands 
in her lap, the bitterer because she was fighting 
against her heart. "What can any ordinary man 
oflFer a girl who has a future without him? Mar- 
riage is all very well for women with no profes- 
sion — as a Home for the Helpless — they were 
nonentities anyhow. But what does it give to 
a woman like me in return for all it costs? / 
don't need to be presented with shelter. I should 
be a lunatic!" 

"Plenty of married women have been famous 
actresses," urjged Royce; "very few famous 
actresses haven't married. And I may have a 
theatre one day; I know a man who would help 

Digitized by 



She had small faith in the man. 

'T)o you think marriage made the struggle any 
easier for them?" she retorted. 

"Yes, I do, if their husbands loved them, and 
could sympathise with their ideas. Besides, to 
be an artist, a woman must love I" 

"Yes," she said, "but to be a poor man's wife 
she must be a fooL" 

He choked with mortification and pain. 

"You care nothing about me, of course, or you 
couldn't argue so." 

"No," she said, inwardly triumphant, "I sup- 
pose that's true." 

He left, cursing the vanity by which he had 
deceived himself. And she bit a hole in her 
handkerchief and cried. 

Digitized by 



They spoke together in the wings briefly that 
evening; indeed for two or three evenings there 
was restraint between them. Perhaps it would 
have lasted longer, but on Saturday night he 
happened to hear that by a chapter of accidents 
she had been unable to arrange for apartments 
in the next town and would have to look for 
some when she arrived. Even the worst-paid 
members of a theatrical company engage tlieir 
rooms by letter; for the trifling reduction in the 
rent that may be obtained by a personal applica- 
tion does not compensate for the dreariness of 
tramping from address to address after a long 
journey until a vacant lodging is found. He 
begged her to take his. She refused; and "vow- 
ing she would ne'er consent, consented." 

As it was now Oliphant who had no rooms and 
no dinner awaiting him, the lady insisted that he 
should dine with her and share the chicken which 
he had been the one to order. The circumstances 
precluded formality, and the estrangement was 


Digitized by 



at an end. He was thankful that it had been a 
chicken. It might easily have been half a pound 
of steak, which would have been awkward. 

Still he was resolved never to revert to the 
subject of his love for her again; and he kept his 
resolution so well that she grew hungry for the 
music of the tale tabooed. Perhaps that was 
why she did not hesitate when he suggested an- 
other excursion. It may not have been so, but 
even if it was, her inconsistency was equalled by 
his own, for this excursion that he meditated was 
a veritable sentimental journey, aggravated by 
the proposed companionship. 

A few miles distant lay a country town which 
was intimately associated with his boyhood. He 
had gone there with his father seventeen years 
ago, and never seen it since. He had scarcely 
seen it, in fact, when he bade it good-bye, for 
he had bidden good-bye to his first sweetheart 
at the same time, and been blind with tears. The 
maiden had been twelve, and he a stout thirteen. 
During a long heartache he had made abortive 
eflForts to paint the scene of this early romance 
in water-colours on cartridge paper. He failed, 
not because his memory of the spot had weak- 
ened, but because he had never painted anything 
hitherto excepting a dog kennel. The best pic- 
ture was the intangible one that disappeared 

Digitized by 



when he woke; for he dreamed of arriving at 
the little station, and surprising Mary Page in 
the orchard — ^her name was Mary Page — vividly 
and often; and he could never eat his breakfast 
on the morning after the dream occurred, so sick 
was he with the longings of his little soul, the 
craving for the sight of Mary Page's plaits. He 
now found himself as a man in the vicinity of 
the place for which he had yearned so desperately 
as a child, and he wanted to look at it again with 
Blanche EUerton by his side. 

They had an hour's journey, for the train 
travelled with intense deliberation, and stopped 
at every opportunity. At last, however, they 
arrived, and Royce, who discovered that the 
hallowed station had been enlarged, inquired the 
way to some wooden steps. 

"There are some wooden steps leading to a 
road with a hedge on each side, aren't there?" 
he asked. 

He was told there were not, and was discon- 

"If there aren't," he said to Miss EUerton, 
"I'm afraid it's a failure. There were two houses 
in a private lane, but I don't know what the lane 
was called — I don't think it was called anything. 
The houses were Mowbray Lodge and Rose 
Villa. / lived at Mowbray Lodge. I could walk 

Digitized by 



there blindfolded from the top of those steps. 
They should be just here — IVe stood on them 
a thousand times, and watched the sails of a 
windmill go round/' 

"Did your First Love lean there with you?" 
asked the actress; "it sounds like it." 

"No, I don't remember her there; she was 
always in the orchard opposite the two houses." 

"Eating green apples I" 

"They were ripe — and the best apples I've 
ever tasted. Here's somebody else I There are," 
he repeated, "some wooden steps close by, lead- 
ing to a road with a hedge on each side, aren't 

"Lord love yer," answered the native, "there 
ain't been no steps 'ere this ten year I" He 
seemed to think the question very foolish, and 
continued his way. 

"Rip Van Winkle, the steps have vanished," 
said Miss EUerton. "What next?" 

Royce pondered, and looked about him. 

"Well, the road can't be gone, at any rate," 
he said. "Perhaps it's at the top of this slope? 
I didn't notice we were on a slope, did you? 
Shall we try?" 

She thought it a good idea; and the road was 

"Ha," cried the young man radiantly, "how 

Digitized by 



it all comes back to me I I hear my own moun- 
tain-goats bleating aloft, and know the sweet 
strain that the corn-reapers sing. But I'm sorry 
they've taken away those steps! We go over 
the bridge, and the lane is on the right. Isn't it 
pretty? I wish we'd come in smnmer, though!" 

"It's very pretty now," she said. 

The entrance to the lane occurred unexpect- 
edly, at least to her ; the low wall above which the 
trees waved made a quick curve, and was lost 
in a laurel-bush. Oliphant urged her forward 
joyously, and then they were on the other side 
of the wall, and opposite a gate which divided 
them from a weed-grown carriage-drive. He 
said: "Mowbray Lodge!" And when he lifted 
the growth of encroaching creeper, the name was 
indeed visible — ^which was to him like a kiss from 
the past. After a minute they came to another 
house, also lying back from the lane behind a gate 
and carriage-drive; and this time he said "Rose 

"Are you satisfied?" she smiled. 

"I am sad," he declared quite truthfully, 
though a moment before he had been delighted. 
*T)o you see that fence? It separates the Mow- 
bray Lodge and Rose Villa gardens. It was 
across that fence I first saw her. Come, I'll show 
you the orchard that I used to try to paint But 

Digitized by 



— oh, this is quite diflFerentI None of that glass 
was there; it was all open — it had nothing, noth- 
ing at all, except the apple-trees and two chil- 
dren. Look, there's a man in his shirt-sleeves, 
digging. Let's go over to him I" 

The ground had been acquired by Mr. 'Obbs, 
the florist in the 'Igh Street, they learnt; and 
both the houses were to let. "Page"? Yes, the 
man remembered the name of Page. The father 
had been a doctor, hadn't he? They had been 
gone — oh, a matter of nine years. 

"I believe you're sorry you came," said Miss 
EUerton gaily. "Did you expect to find Mary 
waiting for you?" 

^'It would have been romantic to find her living 
here still, wouldn't it? Though, of course, she 
wouldn't have known me. But I don't think it's 
Mary I'm melancholy about so much as " 

"As what?" 

He sighed. "I don't know — ^it's so pathetic to 
be *grown up.' " 

She accepted it as a jest, and laughed; but 
he had spoken quite seriously. Thoughts of his 
childhood crowded on him. His father used to 
stroll along this lane in the sunset, with a pipe 
between his lips. There was no sunset now, and 
the lips were cold, but the dead day lived again 
to Oliphant. His sweetheart, Mary with the 

Digitized by 



golden plaits, must be — ^how old? Nine-and- 
twentyl He realised it with a shock. If it had 
been nineteen I But nine Mid twenty! There 
was tragedy in the difference between such an age 
and twelve. And the boy he recalled so tenderly, 
where was he? Gone too. He would have loved 
to commune with him, as the boy had always 
looked forward to his doing. How beautiful a 
comrade! But life was so large, and the boy 
had been lost, somewhere among the years, and 
was only a memory. 

"At this point," said Miss EUerton, "an ex- 
traordinary thing happens! You see the figure 
of a young and lovely woman in a contemplative 
attitude. And she is Mary Page revisiting her 
old home. It would act welL Could you play 
the scene?" 

"The heroine would speak first," said Royce, 
rousing himself. "What would she say?" 

"Oh, she begins with a question. She says: 
"Excuse me, but can you tell me if there is a 
caretaker here? — I see the house is to let.' " 

" 'I am a stranger,* " answered Oliphant; "I 
am sorry I don't know.' " 

" 'I saw you coming from the garden. I 
fancied perhaps ' " 

" 'I've been guilty of trespassing. I knew that 
garden well once ; I couldn't pass it by.' " 

Digitized by 



" Tot* knew it? Your" 

" TDr. Page lived here in the days I speak of.' " 

" T)r. Page was my father's name.' " 

"* Your father? Mary! Oh, forgive me I But 
— am I quite forgotten?' " 

" *You — are — ^Royce — Oliphant? Oh, this is 
wonderful indeed 1' " 

They looked in each other's eyes and laughed 
together. Then a shadow crossed the girl's face, 
and she said half playfuUy, half in earnest: 

"I do believe that's just what you'd really 

"What is?" 

"To see Mary here and make love to her. But 
I daresay she's fat and ugly, and you'd be dis- 

"She had a beautiful nature," said Oliphant. 
"I hope that hasn't got ugly." 

"A 'beautiful nature' — a brat of twelve I 
What did she do — always give you the lemon- 
peei oflF her cake? I should look for her and 
marry her if I were you." 

"I expect she married long ago. Why have 
you turned cross all of a sudden?" 

"Cross?" she echoed with amazement. "I'm 
not in the least cross. . . . Only this is rather 
dull, you know, standing about a wet lane and 
pretending to be somebody else." 

Digitized by 



^'Why," he cried, paling, "it was you who sug- 
gested that I If I*d guessed it bored you 

Let's go I I*m ever so sorry." 

"I don't want to go; I'm tired. I want," she 
said imperiously, "to sit down on that bench, and 
have some bims and lemonade." 

"Won't you come and have some tea?" 

"No, thank you," she said . . . "Well, shall 
we go home?" 

"Will you stay here half an hour alone?" 

"What for?" 

"As well as I remember there isn't a shop 
anywhere near; but if you don't mind waiting, 
I'll race into the town." 

"Very well," she assented. "I'll wait for you." 

Although the task that she had set him was a 
troublesome one to fulfil, and though she looked 
triumphant when he returned in a heat to min- 
ister to her requirements, she ate only a fragment 
of bun, and sipped but little of the lemonade. 
This puzzled him very much. He decided, at 
last, that she must have grown faint during the 
delay; and he said so. And then she seemed to 
smile involuntarily, which puzzled him more. 
However, her amiability was restored. 

Presently she said in a careless tone: 

"What do you call a ^beautiful nature'? I 
mean in a woman?" 

Digitized by 



"I don't foUow you." 

''You used the expression about something. 
Oh yes I You said that that child had a beautiful 
nature, that was it I" 

"Well, it's rather difficult to define," replied 

"You mean 'unpractical,* I suppose?" 

"Say 'unworldly/ " 

"It's the same thing — diet's keep to 'unpracti- 
cal'! Why — why should men look down on a 
woman for being practical? They don't look 
down on one another, do they?" 

"I don't think it's true that they do look down 
on her." 

"Yes, it is," she said; "they want women to 
be fools." 

"Only men who are fools themselves." 

"Do you think you're a fool?" 

"I dxytt't want women to be fools." 

"But you despise a girl for being sensible." 

"I don't know what you mean." He was be- 
ginning to be troubled. 

"You do," she said with a catch in her voice. 
"You despise me/" 

The gardener in his shirt-sleeves had disap- 
peared. Where they sat, Oliphant could see 
nothing but the trees and her distress. Emotion 

Digitized by 



for an instant held him dumb; but it was for an 
instant only. 

Then it was she who was troubled by the blaze 
she had made, though warmed at the same time 
by the ardour of it. 

"No, no," she said, "I told you it was impos- 

"But you shall — ^you shall! I won't let you 
go till you say TTes.' " 

"You are mad to want me. I'm a piece of 

"I'd kiss you into life if you were!" 

"I'm not good enou^ for you. Oh, believe, 
believe I'm not I" 

"My Gkxl, there's nobody on earth like you I 
Tell me you love me." 

"I don't I" 

"You do I and you shall say it. TeU me I" 


"Tell me you love me I" 

"I'm stronger than you think — I won't!" 

He began to fear that she never would; and 
indeed she did not say it. But the next second 
her face turned whiter, and she flung her arms 
round his neck. And after all they were engaged. 

Digitized by 



And the moment when she first regretted it 
was seven hours later, after the candle was out, 
when she lay thinking. But the next morning, 
when she was in his arms, she was reckless again 
and happy. 

They did not love each other, but both were 
violently in love, and thought they did. But 
the woman's self-knowledge was at least greater 
than the man's, and she knew that there could 
never be any person in the world whom she loved 
quite so dearly as herself. Therefore she was 
exigent and imperious, and if he had been less 
infatuated, would have appeared imreasonable 
in the demands she made upon his time; for she 
wished to stifle the knowledge and the voice of 
wisdom, and when he was with her she succeeded. 

As he asked no better than to be with her all 
day long, it was only when the candle was out 
that the voice of wisdom had a listener. 

And then she argued with it, and said that it 
was maligning her, and that she was a much nicer 


Digitized by 



girl than it knew. It was a fact that she was 
forsaking her faith, but since it had been a false 
faith she was acting wisely to desert it. She was 

Of course at home they wouldn't rejoice I She 
hesitated to write the news; and then decided to 
write it quickly, so that they might have time to 
accustom themselves to the idea before she saw 
them. It would mean more novelettes, or in- 
creased economy; she wasn't going to continue 
to help them after she was married — ^it wouldn't 
be fair to Royce. A woman's first duty was to 
her husband. Besides, it would be horrid to 
have to admit to him that her people were in 
such straitened circumstances. No; Royce, poor 
boy, was burdening his back to win her — every 
shilling that she earned belonged to liiml • . . 
Mother — who would feel the diflFerence most — 
would behave best about it. Father would 
advise her to take years to make up her mind, 
and be doubly disagreeable to mother. Grer- 
trude? Gertrude would be jealous of her as 
usual. On the whole the house would be none 
too pleasant during her engagement; she was 
sorry she had to return to it. . . . How Royce, 
though, would loathe taking her salary, the dearl 
And going to the Pantheon as he was, he could 
certainly do without it — at all events if she didn't 

Digitized by 



have a baby. Probably he would refuse to touch 
a penny of it and tell her to keep it for pocket- 
money. Really their life would be quite charm- 
ing I With nothing to do with her salary but 

buy frocks and hats And then Royce would 

want to give her frocks and hats as welll Oh, 
she was glad, glad she was being brave, and 
marrying for love — (xod had been yery good to 
her I 

The Impostor company disbanded at St. Pan- 
eras a few Sundays later. Sunday was addition- 
ally tedious to her and Oliphant now, for — ^the 
men and women being divided when they 
travelled — this was the day on which they saw 
least of each other. When St. Pancras was 
gained, the lovers had not spoken together for 
more than two minutes during three hours. Oli- 
phant hurried to her compartment at once. 
There were general handshakes amid the clamour 
for cabs. Many of the company who had become 
staunch friends would not meet again for years, 
as has been said before, and names and faces 
alike would be forgotten ; but this afternoon they 
were still comrades, and the men exclaimed: "Ta, 
ta, dear boy I I suppose you turn up in the 
Strand?** and the women kissed one another 
affectionately, and repeated, "Now, mind you 

Digitized by 



Royce and the girl stood on the platform con- 
ferring. It had been arranged that he should 
not go out to Earl's Court before the morrow; 
but all at once both felt the manner of their 
parting to be melancholy, and he begged that 
instead of their separating at the station, she 
would at least let him drive some of the way with 
her. She said "yes" readily enough, so he had 
his own luggage deposited in the cloak-room, and 
got into her hansonL 

Needless to say, she had made use of her 
powder-puff before the train stopped; and she 
was one of the women who knew how to tie a 
veiL She put on her gloves well, too. She could 
not help their quality, but she didn't commit the 
infamy of buying them tight, and skipping the 
first button. Women's hands were meant to be 
squeezed, but she knew they were not meant to 
be squeezed into gloves. Oliphant took Blanche 
EUerton's hand, and thought what a wonderful 
thing it was to be a woman. There was no power 
like it! What a delicate little nose she had; and 
how tempting her lips were under the net I 
"Darling I" he said; "put your veil up." 
"Oh, I can't I People would see us." 
"The street's empty; look I" 
So for ten seconds she put up her veiL 
"I've been miserable all the journey," he said. 

Digitized by 



She confessed eoquettisfaly that she also had 
found it dull; and after he had rhapsodised: 

"I wish this fellow wouldn't drive so fasti" 
he exclaimed; "I don't know how I shall get 
through this evening. You'll have your people; 
but / shall have nothing — only your likenesses." 

" 'Only' indeed! Give 'em back to me if you 
don't appreciate them." 

"Oh, you know what I mean!" 

"Do I? " 

"I shall spend the time writing you a letter." 

"Silly Billyl You won't? Not really?" 

"I believe I shall 1 Blanche, you're quite sure 
they won't make obstacles to-morrow when I 
come? You won't keep me waiting a year for 

"Is a year long?" she murmured, gleaming 
with mischief. 

"Oh," he cried, "a year I It's going to be soon, 
isn't it?" 

"Well, we'll see how good you are I Why are 
you in such a hurry?" 

"Because I love you! love you I love you I . . . 
Have I torn it? — oh, I'm so sorry I Why did you 
pull it down again? • . • Blanche 1" 


"Where shall we live?" 

Digitized by 



"My dearT* she laughed. "This is very previ- 
ous r 

"No, it isn't; what have we to wait for? We 
could take a little house somewhere to-morrow; 
we could furnish it on the hire-system. And we 
can save a heap out of my salary. Even if I left 
the Pantheon after Faust we should have plenty 
to live on till I got something else." 

"Yes/* she said; "we shouldn't starve, I know. 
Don't forget there's my salary as well." 

"Yours?" he exclaimed; "yes, there's yours, 
of course; but I don't want you to buy your own 
bread-and-butter, sweetheart. It isn't as if I 
were still getting five pounds a week and we 
couldn't marry unless we clubbed together." 

"Don't be so ridiculous," she answered, warm 
with happiness; "what do you suppose I'm going 
to do with the money then? You'll tell me next 
you want me to leave the profession!" 

"I won't do that — because I know how 
wretched you'd be. But there's one thing I 
want; I want you to remain in town. You won't 
go on tour if I'm in London, Blanche?" 

She hesitated. "Not from choice, naturally. 
I should like London shops myself." 

"But I mean assuming you can't get one, and 
you are offered a tour; you wouldn't accept it?" 

"But if I didn't, I might be out for a year at 

Digitized by 



a stretch; to all intents and purposes I shotdd be 
leaving the profession." 

"Oh, nonsense r' he said cheerfully; "if / can 
stop in town, you can certainly 1 It's easier for 
a girl to get on than for a man." 

"They say it is, as a rule. But there are 
exceptions to every rule, aren't there?" 

"The proper thing would be joint engage- 

"Yes, that would be simply charming," she 
said. "Do you think you could get me into the 
Pantheon? Oh, Royce, wouldn't it be simply 
sweet if you could get me into the Pantheon!" 

"I'll try, you may be sure; but, of course, it*s 
a difficult theatre for a woman — I don't quite 
know what you could do at the Pantheon. Still 
I shan't be there for ever; we'll go to a house 
where you can be lead — although as / shan't 
be lead, that won't be unalloyed bliss either. I 
don't want to see another fellow making love to 
you in every part you play I" 

"As if it mattered I" she said scornfully. "I 
shouldn't know he was there." 

"Wouldn't you? / should I It sounds a selfish 
sentiment, Blanche, but upon my soul I almost 
begin to wish you hadn't been an actress at all." 

"How abominable 1 Oh I" She turned aston- 

Digitized by 



ished eyes. "What a perfectly philistine thing 
to say I" 

"Yes, I know," returned Oliphant with a help- 
less smile; "I know it's very philistine — ^that's 
exactly what I thought you'd call it. But I 
worship the ground you walk on, and the hat 
that's been on your head, and — and that veil 
I've torn on your face. My dear, you don't 
know what you are to me. I shall be green with 
jealousy every time the hero puts his arm around 
your waist." 

She drooped a little, so that her shoulder 
thrilled him. 

"And what about m^," she said, "when you 
make love to the ingenue?" 

"Oh, Blanche, you know that's quite diflFerentI" 

"Is it— why?" 

He could not explain precisely why; so he held 
her hand again behind the apron of the cab. At 
last he said: 

"Well, when we have that theatre of our own, 
'all wiU be gas and gaiters' !" 

"Ah I" she said; "and drive home together to 
Cadogan Square or somewhere in our brough- 
am I" 

"Can you see it — you and me in management?" 

She had seen it. She saw Cadogan Square and 
a brougham. 

Digitized by 



"Not Shakespeare all the time, dearest boy/' 
she said, "eh?" 

"No, not Shakespeare all the time — rather not; 
very little Shakespeare. But I think you and 
I would do good work together for all that; 
shouldn't we? We shall have it — I shall get on I 
All I needed was to meet you — to encourage me, 
and keep me up to the mark. If I'm ever 
tempted to sink the artist, refuse to live with me, 
and say I won you by false pretences. No, seri- 
ously, you'll be the making of me. A man by 
himself is apt to get his ideals blunted — ^the 
world's hard, and it takes the edge oflF them; but 
a girl like you would keep a fellow an artist to 
the end of time." 

She could never quite understand what his 
ideals were, though she had often listened to him 
on the subject. Now, however, when he said that 
a girl like herself was such a boon and a blessing 
his meaning seemed momentarily clearer. She 
gave a sigh of response, and felt holy. 

It is an error to suppose that Earl's Court 
is never adjacent to St. Pancras. They had 
stopped at the comer of the street. Having 
ascertained that the trap in the roof was down, 
Oliphant said good-bye to her, and then got out, 
and was astonished that so very short a drive 
could be more than a shilling fare. She waved 

Digitized by 



her hand to him a second time, and the pleasure 
within her had scarcely faded when she saw her 

Mrs. Ellerton, who had been watching for her 
arrival, behind the spiraea in the window, ran 
to the door herself, and kissed her in the passage 
almost as warmly as she desired to do. She had 
not for years kissed her quite so warmly as she 
desired to do; the girl confessed that she was not 
demonstrative, and since the sununer when she 
put her hair up, her mother had always been a 
little afraid of a repulse. 

Blanche followed her into the drawing-room. 
As it was Sunday, and there might possibly be 
callers, a fire had been lighted there. 

"Tea will be ready directly," said Mrs. Eller- 
ton; "I told Flora not to make it till you came. 
Are you tired? Well, dear, I'm very pleased — 
what I wrote you is quite true, I*m very, very 
pleased. I wish we'd seen more of him; but, of 
course, all that's to come. When you're rested, 
you must tell us everything." 

"Where are the others?" asked her daughter, 
unpinning her hat, and plucking at her hair. 
"What does father say about it?" 

"Well, dear," said Mrs. Ellerton evasively, "of 
course we shall have to manage a little better, 
shan't we? And it's only proper that we should 1 

Digitized by 



You'll have your own home to think of, and we 
can't expect things to be quite the same. But 
we couldn't hope to keep you with us always; it 
was only to be supposed that this would happen 
some day. And I do, do hope you've chosen 
well, Blanche, and that he'll make you very 
happy!" She half opened her arms, but the girl 
was still arranging her hair in the looking-glass 
and did not seem to see. 

The novelist and Gertrude joined them now, 
followed by the general servant with the teapot. 

"I think I'll go upstairs and get my boots off," 
said Blanche after the greetings. "Can Flora 
take up my basket? Gertie, you might help her." 

"That's a new coat," observed Gertrude, re- 
garding her enviously; "you're always buying 
new things! / can't help her with that great 
basket — I've been ill again. Why didn't you ask 
the cabman?" 

"Leave it till to-morrow, dear," said her 
mother; "one of the tradesmen will carry it up 
in the morning. You can take out what you 
want for to-night; I'll come and help you pres- 

"I'll get my boots off at once; I shan't be a 
minute. Is that toast? Don't let Gertie eat it 
all before I come back — I'm hungry." 

"How unromanticl" said Gertrude; "we 

Digitized by 



thought perhaps you*d eat less now you're in 
love. And my frocks are all on one side of the 
wardrobe again, and I've left you have the chest 
of drawers; so don't go taking pegs that don't 
belong to you I I'm very glad to see you again, 
Blanche, but you do make a difference to the 
bedroom, I must say." 

"Never mind," said Blanche; "you'll soon have 
one all to yourself for the rest of your life I" 

The toast was in the fender when she returned; 
and her father, a moment afterwards, approached 
the momentous subject facetiously. 

"So we are going to be married?" he said, stir- 
ring his tea. " *There is nothing half so sweet 
in life ' Is the happy day fixed?" 

"No; it isn't fixed. Mr. Oliphant is coming to 
see you all to-morrow." 

"What time, my dear?" inquired her mother 
with anxiety. "Will he come to dinner? We've 
been dining at two since you've been away; I 
suppose while you're not doing anything, we may 
as well keep to it?" 

"It's a fimny time to dine, isn't it? What was 
wrong with five?" 

"Well, dear, so is five a fimny time for any- 
body who hasn't to play at night. And you've 
no idea how much cheaper middle-day dinner 
comes out; we have a haddock or eggs at seven, 

Digitized by 



and it only means a meat meal once a day. If 
you don't mind " 

"Oh, it doesn't matter," said the girl, shrug- 
ging her shoulders; "do as you please — ask him 
to stay to eggs I" 

"We shall be glad to see Mr. Oliphant," said 
the author. "But is he — I hesitate to express 
myself, Blanche! Is he coming to ask my 
opinion? I inquire because I'm reluctant to tell 
you my opinion. We can't, among ourselves, 
ignore the fact that you have, from time to time, 
been of — er — assistance to the household. My 
opinion might, on that account, be misconstrued." 

"I suppose you mean you don't think I ought 
to marry him?" she said for answer. 

He made a gesture expressive of helplessness. 

"As I say, I hesitate to tell you what I think. 
It seeTTis to me to be a rash step, on both sides. 
You have always been a clever girl. You've the 
right to expect a husband in a first-rate position 
— your good looks, your talent, all give you the 
right. If you waited, there is no doubt you 
would marry into a good position. In choosing 
a young man, an unknown young man, in an 
exceptionally precarious calling, you seem to me 
to be throwing yourself away. But though this 
%8 my opinion, it's perhaps not worth uttering. 

Digitized by 



because — ^it's painful to say — ^because you may 
believe it to be the outcome of self-interest." 

"But she loves him, James,*' said her mother 

"My dearl" replied Mr. Ellerton with a fine 
smile, "we are not discussing the plot of a penny 

"I don't suppose I should marry into Park 
Lane if I waited till I was grey," murmured the 

"I don't suppose you would; but between Park 
Lane and penury there are a great many grades. 
I should have been satisfied to see you engaged 
to a man with influence, who could give you the 
chance in the profession that you deserve. You 
would have been a celebrated woman then; I am 

sure of it I Now You may be happy now, 

if domestic life can content you; but I fear you'll 
never be celebrated. You may go on struggling, 
but you're handicapping yourself; instead of 
marriage helping you forward, it will drag you 
back. I've heard you express your own views 
of marriages like this; why have they changed all 
of a sudden?" He regarded her with an air of 
innocent surprise. "Why have they changed all 
of a sudden?" he repeated. "And further, I am 
sorry for Mr. Oliphant! For him, too, it's a 
blunder. Marriage is the end of a man's youth. 

Digitized by 



By himself Mr. Oliphant might rise, but you 
and your babies will be a weight that'll ruin him. 
Don't / know what it is — the strain of support- 
ing a wife and family? Don't / know what it 
is to be crippled for life by an early marriage? 
My dear girl, the best woman becomes a burden 
to a man!" The wife who was keeping him 
winced, and her eyes filled. She did not speak, 
however. "No, Blanche, since you really want 
to know what I think, I think you are behaving 
like a short-sighted child. The difference your 
marriage will make to ils is not vital — I shall 
have to write a little more, that is all — but the 
difference it will make to you^ to say nothing of 
him, I regret. Yes; I regret it." 

"I thought you would," she said insolently. 
"Well, I'm going to marry himl And you may 
talk till you're tired — and I shall marry him!" 

There was a long silence in the room. Ger- 
trude's attention reverted to the coat, which had 
been tossed on to the sofa, and she wondered how 
much it had cost, and mentally compared it with 
some coats that had been "marked down" last 
month at a local sale. Mr. EUerton lit a pipe 
with dignified deliberation, and the mother bent 
her wet eyes on the fire, pitying everybody except 
herself. She would have liked to feel the girl's 
head in her lonely lap, and receive confidences 

Digitized by 



and caresses, and plan the trousseau; but that 
was how things happened in her novelettes at 
which they all laughed. 

"Won't you have some more tea, James?" she 
said at last, with a nervous effort to sound at ease. 

"No, thank you,*' replied the novelist, rising 
with a heavy sigh; "no more. I'm afraid I 
can't spare the time ; I must go back to the study, 
my dear, and workl" 

Digitized by 



When Royce, rehearsing Faust at the Pan- 
theon, dwelt on the fact that only a year before 
he had been reduced to sixpenny dinners, while 
he awaited his first London "appearance" at a 
salary of two pounds a week, he thought how 
amazed he ought to feel at his progress. This is 
as near to being amazed at our progress as we 
ever get. 

He had removed to rooms in Brunswick 
Square, which is a better address than Burton 
Crescent, and where he was on the whole less 
comfortable, though he paid more rent. How- 
ever, he did not propose to stay there long. Un- 
less his Faust proved a failure and he received 
his dismissal, Blanche and he might as well be 
happy soon as late. The girl no longer demurred, 
and it was arranged that they should marry early 
in February soon after the play was produced. 

The usual honeymoon would, of course, be 
impossible, and they meant to have the ceremony 
on a Saturday, and go by the eleven fifty-five 


Digitized by 



train at night to Brighton, where they could 
remain till Monday afternoon. 

Mr. Ellerton had spared the young man the 
arguments that he had wasted on the fiancee, 
realising that since they had failed with his 
daughter, it would be futile to repeat them to her 
lover. Excepting that his air was rather gran- 
diose indeed, Oliphant had found nothing to com- 
plain of in his future father-in-law. Gertrude 
was monosyllabic, and apparently characterless; 
and Mrs. Ellerton he liked. It was with her that 
he and Blanche discussed where they should live. 

She considered that they would be very unwise 
to take a house, even the cheapest; for though 
they might expect to stay in town, who could say 
but what they would both be on tour again to- 
gether before long? — desirous as they were of 
playing in the same theatre, it was likely enough! 
Blanche inclined towards a small flat, but the 
same objection applied to this; so they agreed 
that, after all, the only plan was to make them- 
selves comfortable in furnished apartments at 
first. Furnished apartments where they would 
put out their photographs and not have to pack 
them up again at the end of a week, would really 
be quite like home, she said. She privately de- 
termined that they should not be at Earl's Court, 
however. She meant, when she married, to begin 

Digitized by 



to form a circle of useful people, and she didn't 
want her family dropping in on her at inoppor- 
tune moments: father, who always referred to his 
books, which nobody knew, and made one feel 
so ashamed! and mother, with her ridiculous 
novelettes in papers that no one had heard of 
either 1 and Gertrude, who as soon as she learnt 
that a man was expected, would always be fish- 
ing for an invitation to come and play her fiddle I 
Oh no. Earl's Court would be simply hateful I 
It was a pity that a flat was out of the question 
— a flat somehow suggested a circle. But the 
privilege of living on the fourth floor or in the 
basement, and viewing a blank wall from every 
window, was very expensive, and if they were 
to be away eight or nine months of the year, the 
establishment would certainly be a white ele- 
phant. It would not do for Royce to assume 
too heavy responsibilities; preserve her from 
leaving one atmosphere of money worries for. 
another 1 — she wanted a respite from hearing 
about the bills. Besides, remembering their pro- 
fession, nice apartments would look natiural 

The date on which the first performance of 
Faust was to take place found Oliphant sick with 
suspense. There was no rehearsal, and he went 
out to the Ellertons' in the morning, and gath- 

Digitized by 



ered encouragement from the mouth of his Be- 
loved. Although, when he received the offer, he 
had declared that he would tremble to know she 
was present on the first night, he had since re- 
canted. They were engaged, and so it was 
different; it was essential that she should be 
there 1 He had brought four dress-circle tickets 
to the house a few days earlier, and this morning 
Blanche gave him a bunch of violets from her 
bodice for luck. 

In a tumbler of water it stood all the evening 
on his dressing-table among the sticks of grease- 
paint; and after each act, when he came off the 
stage, he touched it. And though her violets 
were not responsible, he liked to think they had 
had something to do with his success when he 
read his notices on the morrow. For finally and 
with certainty he had "arrived." He could not 
have acknowledged it to Blanche — though he 
objected to perceive that he couldn't — but in a 
fervour of thanksgiving he dropped on his knees 
among the newspapers and muttered to God. 

The girl's felicitations were wholly sincere this 
time — he pertained to her now; and had not per- 
tained to her sufficiently long for her to begin to 
say: "So much we are one — ^and so much I am I, 
and you are you I" 

And it was with pride that she asked the 

Digitized by 



Editors of The Era and The Stage to insert 
paragraphs announcing that Miss Blanche EUer- 
ton, who had "created" the part of "Lady Maud 
Elstree" in Mr. Royce 01iphant*s drama The 
Impostor J was engaged to be married to him. 
Oliphant asked her why she did it, and she re- 
plied: "Silly Billy, isn't it always a free adver- 
tisement for us both?" 

And it was two or three weeks after The 
Speaker and The World had confirmed the pro- 
nouncement of all the dailies, that he and she 
went to Brighton by the eleven fifty-five. 

The wedding had been the quietest possible. 
For one thing the Ellertons could not afford an 
expensive breakfast, and for another, neither the 
bride nor the groom had many intimate friends. 
So simple had it been that Royce even lacked a 
best man; the men whom he knew best were mar- 
ried and ineligible for the post. As for Otho 
Fairbaim, apart from the objection that to ask 
him would be to ask for an expensive present, 
he had been heard of only once — full of a yacht 
and vague projects — since the night when he 
came "behind" at the Dominion. After the serv- 
ice there was cold chicken and a sort of cham- 
pagne in the drawing-room; and maternal tears 
and a literary speech. And then Royce went 
away, leaving his wife with her family. He 

Digitized by 



could not see her from the stage during the eve- 
ning, but he knew she was up in the dress-circle 
again; and when the curtain fell she went round 
to the stage-door and waited for him. And it 
wasn't a hansom in which he drove with her 
to Victoria, it was a celestial car, and the occu- 
pants of the ordinary cabs in the Strand received 
his compassion. Poor people who were not just 
married! She was his wife, his wife, his wifel 
This was the moment when both first realised it. 
Emotion kept him voiceless, and while they sped 
between the passing lights to the jingle of the 
horse's bell, the girl herself asked nothing better 
than to be allowed to dream. 

It wasn't a celestial car in which he drove with 
her from Victoria to their apartments when they 
returned, it was a hansom; still they were both 
very happy. They had decided upon Maddox 
Street; and when they entered their drawing- 
room the table was laid for five-o'clock dinner, 
for which they were a little late. A few things 
went wrong — ^not quite so agreeable as the hotel! 
But that was natural; and the landlady and the 
servant would soon fall into their ways. The 
photographs, and a plant or two put about, would 
give the room a homely air. And they would 
have some cut flowers on the mantel-piece every 
morning. With Bond Street on one side and 

Digitized by 



Regent Street on the other, it would be quite 
easy to obtain a plentiful supply. 

About half -past six her husband left for the 
theatre, and then Blanche lay on the sofa before 
the fire and mused. Her first reflection was that 
they must buy a couple of cushions; and next 
she perceived that if they hired an upright piano, 
it would improve the aspect of the room very 
much. A good piano, left open, always looked 
well. She thought she would have a black one, 
and get a gilt basket of red azaleas to stand care- 
lessly on the top. 

So she was married — it was very wonderful I 
He was a dear fellow. Would she ever be sorry? 
. . . N-no. 

Ah, she knew there was something she had 
meant to do ! A cab accident that they witnessed 
in the King's Road had suggested the idea. She 
rang the bell, and borrowed a bottle of ink from 
the landlady, and went into the bedroom and 
unpacked her writing materials. While she was 
in the bedroom, though, she might as well get 
into her dressing-gown. When Royce came back 
she would look nice lying on the sofa in her 
dressing-gown. Its tint was pale blue, and she 
had a pair of slippers to match it, embellished 
with little paste buckles. When she had put on 
the wrapper, and the shppers, she pulled all the 

Digitized by 



pins from her hair, and shook it over her shoul- 
ders, smiling in the glass at her folly. She did 
indeed look very charming so; and she returned 
to the drawing-room complacently. She drew 
a chair to the table, and dipped her pen in the 
ink, and meditated. . . . "An accident which 
might have turned a joyful occasion into a 

tragedy " No, that wasn't good; and she 

wanted to begin with her name — the name always 
stood out more then. "Miss Blanche Ellerton, 
who was married on Saturday last to Mr. Royce 
Oliphant, narrowly escaped having no honey- 
moon " She nibbled the penholder; "nar- 
rowly escaped having no honeymoon" didn't 
sound right — was it, or wasn't it, what she meant? 
An accident like the one that had occurred to 
somebody else in Brighton might easily have 
happened to her and him when they were driving 
from the Pantheon on Saturday night — she 
might have been taken to a hospital instead of 
to Brighton. "Miss Blanche Ellerton, who was 
married on Saturday last to Mr. Royce Oli- 
phant" — what a pity she couldn't say at St. 
Peter's, Eaton Square — "had an experience 
which fortunately does not fall to many brides. 
As the newly-married pair were driving to the 

station the horse fell down, and " Fell 

down? Should one say "fell down" or only 

Digitized by 



"fell"? Cross out the "down" anyhow 1 "The 

horse fell, and " Well, and what? It was 

a beastly difficult thing to write a paragraph 1 

She plunged her fingers into the unpinned 
hair, and stared at her paper, with a frown. 

She had only just completed the task when 
Oliphant came in. 

"Look!" she said triumphantly. 

"I am looking," said he; "what a vision!" 

"Oh," she murmured against his mouth, "that's 
not what I meant; I meant what IVe written! 
I'm going to post it in the morning." 

His expression was less proud when he had 
read the paragraph. 

"Do you — do you think that's necessary?" he 
said. "I can't say it's the sort of thing I believe 
in! It's very questionable if they'll print it; 
and if they do " 

"If they do, what?" 

"The taste is questionable still." 

"Why, Royce," she exclaimed with surprise, 
"what do you mean? You know the value of a 
paragraph siu-ely? The more one can get, the 
better; and poor me, I seldom get oner 

"But this isn't true. I hate lies even if they 
don't hurt anybody." 

" 'Lies' is a werry big word to use about it 

Digitized by 



And don't you ever say anything that isn't quite 
true, milord?" 

"I suppose I've told a good many ^polite' lies; 
I've never told one for my own advantage that 
I remember." 

She gave him a little kiss on the cheek, and 
held up a finger laughingly. 

"It's a good thing you have a business woman 
to take care of you at last. Oh, Silly Billy ! Well, 
what have you got to tell me? I suppose you 
had a packed house as usual?" 

She found the evenings dull during his absence, 
and was eager for another engagement. Some- 
times, however, she took a hansom up to the 
Pantheon about eleven o'clock, and they went to 
supper at a restaurant. This was jolly. They 
seldom chose the same place twice, because the 
restaiurants were new to them both, and they 
wished to gain experience. Royce took her to 
Dolibo's first of alL It was his second visit there, 
and when he had gone with Rayne, he and she 
had never met. So they were bound to drink 
champagne I And on subsequent evenings when 
they went to supper, if they had not had cham- 
pagne, the jaunt would have seemed rather a 

The proximity of Bond Street provided them 
with a very pleasant thoroughfare to stroll in on 

Digitized by 



fine afternoons. It did not cost two persons the 
amount of Royce's salary to live, even with occa- 
sional suppers in restaiurants, and so they could 
look at the shop-windows and buy hats. It was 
not a solitary occurrence for them to disagree 
as to which hat became her better; and when he 
had yielded to her opinion, he begged her to yield 
to his — and she said that it was "simply prodigal" 
of him, and that she wouldn*t hear of such a 
thing. But he came out victorious. They liked 
to saunter through the Biurlington Arcade also. 
The early illimiination of the windows there often 
lured them in from the cold daylight of Picca- 
dilly; and the gloves, and the garters, and the 
notepaper were attractive trifles to a man with 
a fascinating woman by his side. After all, they 
were practically on their honeymoon, though they 
were in town; and a very cosy honeymoon it was. 
Just as they had prophesied, the landlady "fell 
into their ways" with the ready perception that 
distinguishes the genus — and the "extras" in 
their bills were a sight to see. 

When they had been in Maddox Street about 
six weeks Blanche was oflfered an engagement at 
the Sceptre. She was to receive eight pounds a 
week. This did not seem so startling to her as it 
would have done before Oliphant went to the 
Pantheon, but she still counted it high terms, and 

Digitized by 



she was very much elated. Royce was pleased 
by the news because it pleased her, and it was 
not until after she had come home with the part 
folded in her muff that their first difference arose. 

From a professional point of view it was an 
extremely good part; from Oliphant's, it was a 
very offensive one. She was to play a courtesan ; 
and as courtesans in drama are much more bril- 
liant than courtesans in life, she had to utter 
several epigrams which he objected to his wife's 
delivering. He tried to induce her to cancel the 
engagement, and their argument grew heated. 

"I never heard anything so ridiculous I" she 

exclaimed; "it is simply phihstine I I Really 

I'm surprised at you I Cancel it ? Why, my dear 
boy, if I make a hit at the Sceptre, just look what 
it means I One would think you were I don't 
know what." 

"I'm your husband," he replied; "that's what 
I am. I respect you, darling; the greater the 
hit you made, the worse I should feeL" 

"Thank you," she said indignantly. 

"Don't misimderstand me on purpose. The 
point is " 

"The point is that you're being philistine, 
simply philistine I" 

"Yes, you said that before. It's always you 
who find me philistine — X don't think X was 

Digitized by 



thought so by anyone else. Come, don't let's 
wrangle, Blanche" — he sat down on the couch, 
and put his arm round her waist — '"y^^ know 
yourself it isn't a nice part; now, is it?" 

"I don't think that's the way to look at it at 
all; I didn't know you did look at things in that 
way. I've heard you say that a dramatist should 
be free to take any characters he pleased — ^the 
most abandoned. Haven't you?" 

"I never said I wanted my wife to play them," 
answered Oliphant doggedly. 

"Ohl" She left his side, and walked about the 
room. "You're not consistent. I'm an artist. 
I don't recognise such rotten suburban distinc- 
tions! I thought you were an actor, Royce. 
Upon my word you make me gasp 1" 

"Put yourself in my place! Is it astonishing 
that I should blush to know my wife was sneer- 
ing at decency every evening to make a crowd 
titter? I hope I am an actor, but I was a man 

"Oh, yes — and you were going to be a parson 
first I To hear you talk, I — I almost think it's 
a pity you changed your mind." 

Oliphant did not reply for some seconds. The 
colour had gone out of his face, and his eyes were 

"As a matter of fact," he said in a sharp voice. 

Digitized by 



"there is no question of my consistency here, for 
the part has nothing to do with art/' 

"You know a great deal about the piece, don't 
you," she retorted, "considering you didn't hear 
it read?" 

"I know what the man is capable of who wrote 
it, and I know this character. 'Character'? 
There's no character in it, only cheap cynicism. 
'There is some soul of goodness in things evil'! 
But what does this teach; what is it for? — she 
isn't a woman. She came out of a writing-table 
to wear Paris frocks and amuse the stalls." 

"Ohl" she cried; "'Teach'? Tor'? She's for 
eight pounds a week and to get big notices I 
Don't be a f ooL" 


"Well, you shouldn't irritate me. I think it's 
very cruel of you to make childish difficulties, 
instead of being nice and congratulating me on 
my good luck. I do, Royce" — she whimpered a 
little, and pressed her handkerchief to her eyes — 
"I think it's very cruel!" 

"Blanche!" It was a diflferent "Blanche" this 

"You — ^you've disappointed me very much. I 
came home so happy." 

"Oh, dearest, don't say that — that hurts." 

"I thought we were one; I thought we entered 

Digitized by 



into each other's hopes so thoroughly," she fal- 
tered behind the handkerchief. 

"We do; we always shall/' he said, tiying to 
take her hand. 

''And this engagement — ^you know what it 
might mean to me?" 

''But you might get another just as good. You 
might " 

"No, I should be turning my back on fortune; 
it would never come again — or not for years. Do 
good engagements keep knocking at one's door? 
I didn't want to feel that our marriage was going 
to hinder me in any, any way — I didn^tr 

She suffered him to capture the hand now, and 
draw her to him; to dry her tears — and bring a 
smile to her pathetic lips by the assurance that he 
"wouldn't say any more." 

Digitized by 



And being a decidedly clever actress, she made 
a success at the Sceptre. Her name became 
familiar to London playgoers, who, knowing 
nothing of the apprenticeship that she and her 
husband had served in the provinces, while their 
hearts grew sick with hope deferred, spoke — as 
playgoers do speak — of Royce Oliphant and 
Blanche EUerton having "come out at the 
Dominion last year." To the actor, who is so 
fortunate as Oliphant only in exceptional cases, 
and has often grown grey in his calling before 
he obtains recognition in London, this phrase 
"come out" has its humour. 

The earliest days of June brought Royce his 
first professional worry since his marriage. The 
Impostor, which he fervently wished would sink 
into oblivion, had been sent on tour again. Rayne 
was now deriving a small profit from it, and there 
were insignificant author's fees. One morning 
when Oliphant received the Chester-le-Street 
notices from the Press-cutting pgency to which 


Digitized by 



he had subscribed, he was astonished to discover 
that the last act of his play had been entirely 
rewritten. He could scarcely believe his eyes. 

"I won't stand itl" he cried, rising excitedly; 
^'the thing's monstrous; I'll have it stopped 1 
Rayne has turned The Impostor into a burlesque 
— ^he's holding me up to ridicule all over Eng- 
land I" 

"What do you mean?" asked Blanche. 
"Turned it into a burlesque?" 

"Look at this! He, or some other ass, has 
written a new act. Clement is sent to Portland, 
and escapes to France. And Maud and Mrs. 
Vaughan fight a duel — fight a duel! — about him 
with swords. They fight a duel — two English 
ladies! — ^here it is in print I" 

"Why the man must be insane I" she exclaimed. 
"Maud and Mrs. Vaughan fight a duel? You 
should go and see him at once." 

But Rayne was not visible; and being in a 
theatre every evening for three hours, he thought 
himself much too busy a man to answer a letter. 
Then Oliphant sought Counsel's opinion^ and 
there was, of course, no doubt that he could 
obtain an injunction. Theatrical advisers, how- 
ever, pointed out that if he took the matter into 
court, Rayne would probably declare that the 
drama, as it left Mr. Oliphant's hands, had 

Digitized by 



proved so disastrous that "there wasn^t a man- 
ager who would give it a date." The statement 
might not be accurate, but it would be damaging. 
And after all, the company was only visiting the 
"smalls," where not more than two persons in 
five hundred would observe who wrote the play, 
or remember, if they observed. On the whole 
he was recommended — for various reasons — ^to 
submit to the outrage until Rayne's rights in the 
property expired. 

So the hero continued to escape to France, 
and two English ladies continued to fight a duel 
about him; and those among the audience who 
had the sense to laugh, continued to imagine that 
the author whose name stood on the play-bill was 
the ignoramus that they were entitled to laugh at. 

"And at any rate," said Blanche, "if it plays 
to better business with the alteration — ^and I sup- 
pose Rayne reckons it will — ^you'll get bigger 
fees; don't forget that!" 

Royce looked at her without answering; and 
though the subject burned within him, he never 
mentioned it at home any more. 

Four months of matrimony had been ample to 
display the disparity of their points of view. 
He had a pretty wife, and — as she would be 
judged in "the profession" — a talented wife; but 
he had no companion, and never would have one. 

Digitized by 



It was his own fault, he was quite aware of it. 
He had made a mistake; but that it was a mis- 
take for which he would have to suffer all his 
life did not lessen the weight upon his mind as he 
realised it. She was fond of describing herself 
as an artist, and when they disagreed upon prac- 
tical matters, she insisted also that she was a 
business woman; but to him she appeared a busi- 
ness woman always, and an artist only when she 
was behind the footlights. She was an actress, 
he did not deny that — and it was a puzzle to him 
how she was able to project herseK into a part — 
but her taste in dramatic literature was nil. She 
cared no more about the quality of a play in 
which she was engaged than did the scene- 
painters. For a piece to "run" was everything 
that she had imagined anybody could ask of it. 
"Success" to her was the last word; and miccis 
d'estime was the French for failure. Money was 
spent freely in the Maddox Street rooms, but he 
never saw her spend a shilling on a book, and 
rarely saw her read one. Their conversation 
yielded nothing, was barren, dry as ashes in his 
mouth. He could not talk to her as he wanted 
to talk to someone, because the references, the 
comparisons he made, had no significance to her, 
and she found his attitude towards the theatre 
wholly incomprehensible. They had at this 

Digitized by 



period only two interests in common. One was 
the removal they were about to make to a small 
fmnished flat in Victoria Street — she wanted a 
flat, and it was a more sensible arrangement than 
living in lodgings and wasting half his salary 
outside ; the other was the child that was expected 
to be bom to them at the end of November. 

It may be thought that these meant a good 
deal, but wherever their home might be, Oliphant 
must live chiefly within himseK; and as to the 
child — ^well, she had hurt him very much about 
the child, and though he tried to forget it, the 
pride of anticipation that he might have felt was 
absent. She was now resigning herself to the 
idea of becoming a mother; but he had known 
nothing until she had suffered in secret, and made 
herseK iU; and when he reproached her, she had 
turned from him, crying passionately that "This 
would prevent her following up her Sceptre suc- 
cess, and now she would be out of a shop all 
through the autumn 1" 

Of her parents and sister he saw little. No 
mother-in-law could have been less obtrusive than 
was Mrs. EUerton. Oliphant had gathered 
enough of the family's circumstances to under- 
stand that they must miss their daughter's help, 
and he assumed that some of Blanche's eight 
pounds went to Earl's Court every week. She 

Digitized by 



did not tell him that it was so, and he did not 
inquire; nor, if he had been better versed in the 
prices of West End dressmakers, would any 
question have been necessary. 

They moved into the flat on the 4th of June. 
Blanche's engagement at the Sceptre would soon 
terminate, but at the Pantheon Faust was run- 
ning still. Next month the house would be 
temporarily sub-let, while the annual tour was 
made. Whether he would be oflFered a re-engage- 
ment for Greatorex's next production, Oliphant 
did not know; he only hoped. It was reported 
that this was to be Romeo and Juliet. 

The photographs and sofa-cushions had not 
been transferred to Victoria Street quite a week 
when he received a note at the theatre from Otho 
Fairbaim, apologising for so long a silence, and 
begging him to make an appointment. They 
lunched together two days later, and Fairbaim 
was found paler and older-looking than when 
Royce had seen him last. He wrung the actor's 
hand heartily, and said how delighted he had 
been to discover the name "Oliphant" in the 
Pantheon cast. 

"I thought you might be acting in town, and 
was going to read all the names 'under the clock' 
on the chance. Lo, you were high in the list I 
You've done well, Royce I" 

Digitized by 



"Where have you been?" asked Oliphant. 

"I'm a pig — IVe made fifty resolutions to 
write to you; but I — IVe been in a good deal of 
trouble, old fellow; you must forgive me." 

"I'm sorry to hear that I May I know — ^is it 

"Well, I was engaged to be married," said 
Fairbaim, "and the lady changed her mind. IVe 
been in New York, you know — she was an 
American girl. I was very fond of her; but she 
discovered that she liked somebody else better. 
It leaves one rather raw, that sort of thing." He 
laughed drearily. "She didn't treat me well, but 
my dollars weren't so startling on the other side 
— lots of the Americans have more — ^it was a pity 
the governor didn't live to buy a title! . . . 
Never mind about me — I want to hear about 
yourself. What have you been doing?" 

Oliphant hesitated. "WeU," he said, *T[— I 
have married." 

"No? Is that a fact? My warmest congratu- 
lations! Married!" 

"I married Miss Ellerton — she played in my 
piece at the Dominion. We're living in Victoria 
Street. You must come and dine with us; or 
lunch with us — our dinner-hoiu* would be rather 
barbaric to you. We don't do things in style. 

Digitized by 



but we can give you an edible lunch — ^there's a 
restaurant downstairs, and they feed us." 

"It must be devilish jolly," said the other. 
"So you married an " 

"I married an actress, yes; and a very clever 

"The wisest thing you could do, of course I A 
wife in one's own profession must be ideal. When 
was it?" 

"We were married at the beginning of Febru- 
ary. What day will you come? — ^the sooner the 

Fairbaim was free to go the next afternoon, 
and Blanche put on the frock that suited her best 
for his subjugation. She had learnt the details 
of his oflFer to back Royce in a theatre, and she 
intended that he should develop into a constant 
visitor now that he had returned to England. 

He found his hostess informal and charming; 
and Oliphant was in high spirits, perceiving that 
she had made a good impression. Conversation 
did not flag, and soon became frankly profes- 
sional in tone; for Fairbaim was interested in 
their prospects, and put a good many ques- 
tions, and, although he now believed himself a 
misogynist, there was a fascination to him^ an 
outsider, in hearing an actress chatter about the 
stage. To Blanche it was even more novel to 

Digitized by 



entertain a young man who possessed a splendid 
income; and when he inadvertently said he must 
have been "staying at Brookhill" at the date soma 
comedy was produced, and she discovered that 
he meant the place of a peer, she dared not look 
at him lest she should betray the sensation that 
the announcement had caused her. 

He took leave of her with the consciousness 
of having spent three hours as agreeable as mis- 
ogyny permitted, and his assurance that he would 
drop in upon them often was no less sincere than 
the lady's petition that he would do so. She 
regarded Royce respectfully for being the friend 
of "such a swell" ; and when they received a note 
in which Fairbaim trusted that it wasn't too late 
to send a wedding present, and they found that 
the present was silver suitable for a prince's 
dinner-party, her "lively sense of favours to 
come" knew literally no bounds. 

"How much money does one need to take a 
theatre?" she inquired eagerly. *T)o you think 
he would be just as ready to do it as he was? 
Well, do you think he will be just as ready when 
you want him to? — ^people's ideas change. Why 
shouldn't you ask him now — ^why not make use 
of him while he's here?" 

"We're not well enough known," said Royce. 
**We don't want to have a theatre for three 

Digitized by 



months — I want to open it, and keep it open. 
Besides, it wouldn't be a fair proposal in our 
present position." 

"He has lots to lose," she argued; "it wouldn't 
hurt him if it were a frost. Which house should 
we take? Perhaps — ^perhaps he'd btUld you a 
theatre! You're very stupid to take it so easy, 
my boy — ^when you want him, he may have cooled 
off. And he may marry — men are such mugs — I 
daresay he'll go and marry and want all his 
money for his wife. You may be sure there are 
heaps of women trying for him — She'll fall in love 

"He was engaged in New York. The girl 
broke it oflF." 

"Broke it oflF? The ^>Z did?" 

"So he told me." 

. "Good Lord I Heaven was kind to us to make 
her such a fooll" 

"Don't I" said Royce; "I think he's cut up 
about it." 

She lifted her eyebrows protestingly. "I hope 
he understands we are genuine," she said, "and 
won't be afraid of taking us by surprise. If he 
doesn't call soon, you must fix a day — or / shall. 
I want him to be very much at home in this flat, 
I can tell you; he means our future I" 

This was all very distasteful to Oliphant; it 

Digitized by 



jarred upon him terribly, but to say so would 
entail another altercation. He held his peace, 
and let the subject drop. The woman's ardour 
was chilled by the coldpess of its reception. She 
reflected that he was not companionable. How 
diflFerent he had been before he got her! She 
might have done better for herself even if Fair- 
bairn did start them in a theatre! And momen- 
tarily she felt that he never would — ^Royce was 
so impossible! Now how nice the hour would 
have been if he had been sympathetic, and could 
have shared her enthusiasm, and made plans with 
her for their advancement! That would have 
been marriage. She could understand that in a 
marriage like that a girl might be happy although 
she was not rich. Royce was only enthusiastic 
about matters that didn't concern him; what 
affair was it of his whether a play was "litera- 
ture," or whether it wasn't, if the parts were 
good, and it caught on? He was a dreamer. 
His ideals were very fine, she supposed; but high 
ideals were a dreadful strain to live with. She 
did not ridicule his theories — she knew that many 
dreary subjects were deep and admirable — ^but 
the proper place for them was Exeter Hall, or 
the Birkbeck Institute, or somewhere; she could 
not pretend to want them rammed down her 
throat with her meals. If he felt aggrieved, she 

Digitized by 



couldn't help it — she had not yawned often, and 
he had bored her to death. No, Royce was un- 
practical — ^a crank. He was — ^he was — She 
tapped her foot restlessly, and shook her head 
to herself behind The Era. She had blundered 
with the wrong man I 

The following day, however, she had another 
triumph. A fancy fair was being held at the 

Botanical Gardens for the benefit of The 

visitors were not quite e^rtain what it was to 
benefit; but a number of more or less prominent 
actresses had given their services, and a large 
contingent of the gilded youth sped to Regent's 
Park from Clubland, curious to see Miss this and 
Miss the other off the stage. There were several 
Society women too, being charitable in elaborate 
toilettes, and it was possible for quite inferior 
young men to acquire a chance to win a tea-cosy, 
or buy a baby's comforter from a lady who had 
a title. 

Blanche was assisting at the Burmah Stall, 
captivating in a frock which Oliphant mentally 
described as "a shower of lace without a figure." 
When he joined her there, he found her radiant. 

"Oh," she exclaimed, "I've been talking to 
Lady Fleck, and she wants to be introduced to 
youl They say she knows everybody in the pro- 
fession — ^the authors and critics and everyone. 

Digitized by 



She's ever so gone on you — says you're the com- 
ing man, and I don't know what. There she is! 
Come over now." 

Lady Fleck was emerging from a group upon 
the lawn, smiling vaguely. As she saw Oliphant 
and Blanche approaching, her smile gained ex- 
pectation. She was not pretty and she was not 
young, but actors and authors and musicians 
found her charming — she Uked them so much. 
She gave Sunday luncheon parties, which she 
called "bohemian," and which sometimes cost two 
hundred pounds. 

"I'm 80 delighted to meet you, Mr. Oliphant," 
she said; "I've been telUng your wife how IVe 
looked forward to knowing you both. Such an 
interesting couple I've always thought you — so 

The last word completed his embarrassment; 
it was his earliest experience of social adulation. 
Blanche covered his awkwardness by the playful 
assumption of a shyness that she did not feel. 

"Oh, don't say that. Lady Fleck," she cried, 
hiding her face affectedly; "you'll make us so 
vain of each other!" 

"But I must say it," declared Lady Fleck; 
"such an interesting couple! Oh, your Faust, Mr. 
Oliphant! it impressed me so deeply. You re- 
vealed Favst to me. How you must have 

Digitized by 



thought" — she half closed her eyes to convey 
thought — "how you must have lived in the char- 
acter to portray it as you do!" 

"I'm glad it pleased you," he murmured. 

"Of course I'm an enthusiast about the Stage, 
I confess it! My passion is the Theatre. When 
I see a performance like yours, I want to thank 
the actor — I want to go to him — to tell him what 
I owe him for the intellectual and emotional treat 
he has given me!" 

He contrived a response with great laboiu*. 
She discovered it to be "so original, so sugges- 
tive." Blanche felt rather in the way, but hesi- 
tated to make an excuse and vanish, not knowing 
whether a lady in Society would consider it tact- 
ful or rude. She was relieved when they were 
interrupted. Lady Fleck pressed them to go 
to see her, and repeated her "day" twice, with 
much warmth. 

In the bedroom that night Royce was entreated 
to realise the responsibility that rested on him. 

"You must make the most of this chance," 
insisted the girl; ''say things when we go! If 
she takes us up, we shall meet no end of people. 
And gaze at her as if you thought she was good- 
looking — that's more important than all; she 
knows already you're clever. I know what 
women are — you're the draw with Lady Fleck, 

Digitized by 



because you're a man. It wouldn't hurt" — she 
raised her bare foot contemplatively and admired 
it, as she always did when she undressed — "it 
wouldn't hurt if you make up to her a little. Not 
ridiculously, because her husband mightn't Uke 
it, and then we shouldn't be asked any more; but 
plain women are so easily flattered, dear boy — 
Gertrude smirked in the Zoo when a monkey 
looked after her — ^you needn't go far. . . . Do 
baronets' wives know duchesses?" 

Digitized by 



If their marriage had sprung from love instead 
of from infatuation — even if one of them had ever 
truly loved the other — their lif ci would have been 
very enviable. The child was bom early in De- 
cember, and at the end of February Blanche was 
fulfilling another engagement in town, and at the 
Pantheon Oliphant had won approval as Mer- 
cutio. They were young, the man had had great 
luck, and they were in a profession which pays 
the fortunate lavishly while making small de- 
mand upon their time. It is true that every day 
Oliphant studied — shutting himself in a room 
and striving to attain the control over the muscles 
of his face that a musician seeks over his instru- 
ment; taking his voice note by note, and practis- 
ing with it as a singer practises his scales — ^but 
this was only in the morning, and by no means 
during the entire morning. He did not work 
for hours at a stretch as do authors, painters, civil 
engineers, city clerks, and other men. He was 
free to go out with his wife whenever she wished 


Digitized by 



him to do so ; and although she had met far fewer 
titles at Lady Fleck's than she had expected, 
there were, by the summer, several "Tuesdays" 
and "Thursdays" on which she claimed his com- 

She did not disguise that she was very am- 
bitious of extending their circle of people worth 
knowing; by "people worth knowing" she already 
meant people in Society. Scheming to extend it, 
she never missed an opportunity of being agree- 
able to her own sex ; men only paid compliments, 
she realised — it was to women she must look for 
the magic words "I shall be so pleased if you'll 
come and see me." From this cause she accepted 
the former's attentions with such composure that 
she was pronounced by masculine admirers to 
be "a bit cold, don't you know," and gained 
among women — to whom she listened with an air 
of enchained interest — the reputation of being 
devoted to her husband. To a "romantic couple" 
in the most popular profession an invitation to 
one house led to the drawing-room of another 
if tact and patience were employed. 

Otho Fairbaim also had his social uses, though 
as a bachelor they were limited. He had not 
become quite the constant visitor that Blanche 
had hoped to see him; still he would drop in upon 
them sometimes at odd hours now, and she had 

Digitized by 



made herself very sympathetic in a tete-a-tete 
once on the subject of his misogyny. Otho had 
fowid it a pleasant matter to discuss with her. 
She had assiu*ed him that he was only temporarily 
embittered, and prophesied that some day he 
would come across a pretty girl who would com- 
pletely change his views. He denied the possi- 
bility. Between his heart and him the Atlantic 
rolled. Nevertheless the conversation had a 
charm, and he was more than ever of the opinion 
that Royce had married a very nice woman. 

The year for which the flat had been obtained 
had expired, and Oliphant and she had just taken 
one a shade more commodious, on the same side 
of the street. Since the advent of the baby and 
a nurse their recent quarters had been rather 
inconvenient. Now that the child was here, and 
could be brought to her arms in white embroidery, 
and carried away if he cried obstreperously, 
Blanche showed an interest in the little being — 
even in moments displayed tenderness for him. 
He had been christened Hugh, the name that 
had been Royce's father's. Oliphant, still half- 
frightened of breaking him if he picked him up, 
loved to sit and look at the mite. He did not 
remember looking at a baby before, and the help- 
lessness of this tiny thing that was his son awoke 
extraordinary emotions in him. If Blanche's 

Digitized by 



tenderness had not been capricious, if her interest 
in the undesired child had been more than a 
liking, there would now have been a firm link 
between him and her. 

Excepting during the few weeks in the pre- 
vious autumn when he had toured with the Pan- 
theon company, they had not been separated 
since their wedding. They had, however, never 
played on the same stage since then. Each had 
a nightly world apart from the other. The fact 
to a well-mated pair might have furnished food 
for cheerful chatter across the supper-table, but 
only to a pair very happily mated indeed. Gossip 
about those who are strangers to the listener is 
rarely amusing, and it sounds dull to the one 
who gossips also. The listener generally says 
the wrong thing, and the anecdote falls flat. Oli- 
phant and his wife rarely touched upon the inci- 
dents of the evening to each other. 

While Royce remained at the Pantheon there 
was no prospect of a joint engagement. Even 
when he was wanted for a matinee at the Mirror, 
he knew nothing about it until the women's parts 
were cast. Blanche had asked him to ascertain 
if there was a chance for her there, and he re- 
turned with the news that all the arrangements, 
were made. 

Digitized by 



"How about you?** she inquired. "Has 
Greatorex given you permission?" 

"Yes, that's all right. I spoke to him last 
night. What are those — ^the proofs of your like- 
nesses? Let me look." 

She gave them to him one by one, scrutinising 
them herself across his shoulder. She had a 
passion for having her likeness taken, and, not 
having arrived at the position where photogra- 
phers wrote offering sittings for nothing, she 
spent a good deal of money upon it, although, of 
course, she obtained the "professional reduction." 
There were here various presentments of her: 
she stood triumphant, showing her bosom and her 
teeth; she sat thinking high thoughts, with her 
cheek upon her hand; she had her face in profile 
and her hands behind her back; and her hands 
full of flowers and her face bent. She laughed; 
she mused; she yearned — she was beautiful in 
all of them; and her husband's paramount reflec- 
tion was how little they resembled her. 

"Which do you think is best?" she said. 

"They're all exquisite ; I don't know. Perhaps 
this . • • but it's so difficult to say." 

"The 'soulful' one— I think I like that best 
myself. You know it ought to sell, that — I do 
want an agent who would push me on; I wish 
I could get hold of Bernstein 1 — ^What do I look 

Digitized by 



as if I'm thinking about?" She held the photo- 
graph out, and viewed it critically. "Now sup- 
pose you'd never spoken to me — suppose you 
were somebody else and saw it in tiie shop- 
windows — ^what would you think I was like?" 

"My dear girl," said Oliphant, checking a sigh, 
"I can't imagine I" 

"Well, you'd be curious to know me, wouldn't 
you? It would stand out among the other 
women's? Wouldn't it — isn't it uncommon? 
What do you say? Or do you think there's too 
much shadow about it? What does it suggest — 
what kind of girl? I meant to look all aspiration 
and religion in this; very Bible-yl as if my eyes 
were fixed on Heaven. You know what I mean. 
I think I shall have a dozen of this, and a dozen 
of the one in the low-neck, and ... I don't 
know that any of them are really very good — I 
don't look my best. The one with the hat on 
is a perfect beast! . . . No, he must give me 
another sitting. Don't tell 'em at home I'm 
having any done — I want to save them for par- 
ticular people." 

"Where's Baby?" asked Oliphant. "Is he out 

"No, it's in the nursery," she said, disposing 
the mounted proofs in a line along the mantel- 
piece; "do you want it in?" 

Digitized by 



"I may as well go to him, if he's awake." 
"It was awake just now — I heard it crying." 
"WeU, I'll go and say *How d'ye do' to him 
in his own domain." 

The nurse said she had ^^never seen a gentle- 
man take such notice of his baby as Mr. Oli- 
phant." He inquired if the eyes were likely to 
remain that glorious blue ; was despondent when 
he heard that " 'most every baby was bom with 
blue^ eyes" ; and knew restored hope when she 
added that, "as Madam's eyes was blue, there was 
no saying but what they might." It pleased him 
to imagine that the infant looked at him with 
a diflFerent expression from that awakened by 
others; and because he felt embarrassed under 
the nurse's surveillance, he was always glad when 
she withdrew, leaving him at liberty to behave 
as ridiculously as he pleased. How he wished 
that "Hugh" could talk already, and that he 
could take him out, holding his warm little hand, 
and dazzle him with toys 1 How funny and jolly 
it would be! . • . And unless he had all his own 
feeling for the art, he should never be an actor. 
Oh no I he should be a doctor, or go to the Bar. 
And — he shouldn't take a wife until he was quite, 
quite sure. Poor little Hugh — ^the nurse had 
withdrawn, and he touched the baby's face with 
his own. If only his father could have lived to 

Digitized by 



see Hugh! . • • He wondered if he knew about 
him now. It was an awful thing, poor little 
Hugh, to choose the wrong girL O Grod, grant 
that the child would find nothing lacking in 
Blanche! — ^how piteous if he couldn't love her, 

The matinee for which Oliphant's services had 
been sought was designed to introduce the first 
dramatic experiment of a novelist of the intro- 
spective school. For a reason that was not 
Imown he awaited the verdict on his earliest play 
with deep anxiety. When he had married, a year 
or two before, his mother had been very indig- 
nant. Some mothers do consider matrimony the 
one unpardonable offence that their sons can 
commit. The indignation of the novelist's 
mother, however, had placed him in a peculiar 
predicament; the first time after his marriage 
that he drew an unlovable woman, she called on 
all their friends, and said that ^'Arthur had dis- 
covered his wife's real character at last!" And 
when, in his next book, he drew the failings of 
a totally different woman, she exclaimed that 
"'poor Arthur was finding out more about his 
wife every day 1" As a consequence he was terri- 
fied to describe any woman who wasn't a bom 
angel, and his career in fiction seemed over. 

Digitized by 



He read a play as badly as most novices, and 
resembled dramatists more eminent by cherishing 
the delusion that few persons read one so well. 
Oliphant received his part the day before the 
reading was to take place, and to a cursory 
perusal it looked promising: some of the speeches 
a little long perhaps; here and there a line that 
"didn't speak'' — awkward when one came to 
utter it; but the man seemed alive, he evidently 
meant something. To an admirer of the author's 
novels the production of the drama was an inter- 
esting experiment. 

Arthur Mundey was on the stage, and made 
himself known, when Oliphant reached the 
Mirror. He said he was glad that it had proved 
possible to obtain Mr. Oliphant for the pro- 
tagonist, and the actor was gratified. Whatever 
significance the public might attach to the 
mating, it was to the organisers decidedly im- 
portant — ^the outcome of a movement with which 
he was in cordial sympathy. The company had 
not all arrived, and as he loui^^ under the 
T-piece his gaze met a face that was familiar, 
though he did not instantaneously remember how 
he knew it. The woman, who was seated in the 
prompt-entrance, had been looking towards him 
at the same moment, and he saw in her eyes the 
diffident expression of one who waits to be recog- 

Digitized by 



nised. Now, her identity flashed up<m him, and 
he went to her quickly. But her name escaped 
him still; so extending his hand, and in a tcxie 
of pleasure that was not feigned, he exclaimed : 

"How d'ye do? We meet again at lastP 

She rose, with a murmured greeting. "You 
didn't expect to find me here, Mr. Oliphant?" 

"Indeed, no; I — I didn't know who was in it 
at alL Have you been back from South Africa 

"I came back in January," she said. "I saw 
you looking across — I wondered if you'd remem- 
ber me." 

"Of course I do I" The name touched his 
tongue. "I'm very glad to see you again. Miss 
Eang. What are you playing — is it any good?" 

" 'Patience Banfield,' " she said; "it's a small 
character-part. You — ^you have fulfilled my 
prophecy, Mr. Oliphant — ^may I congratulate 
you? I was at the Pantheon last night." 

Her manner was graver than it had been, he 
fancied. He recalled a girl, and here she was a 
woman. How long ago was it? Two years — 
two years and a half. No timel But what a 
change it had made in his position 1 — Pathetic, as 
he stood before her, that she had not risen toa 
He paused with a little embarrassment. The 
questions that he would have asked were impos- 

Digitized by 



sible, but he felt that he was appearing formal, 
even that the situation imparted to him, against 
his will, an air of patronage. He was distinctly 
relieved when Mundey sat down at the table, 
and they had to listen to the play. 

It disappointed him; yet how clever it was I 
though half its cleverness was missed by the 
assembly to whom it was read. It was a novel 
in dialogue. It would have been admirable under 
the library lamp, but the flare of the footlights 
would kill it. It was delicate, subtle, undramatic 
— it was the scenery painted by an Impressionist. 
A great regret possessed him as the reading went 
on, Mundey perspiring and growing hoarse. He 
felt the pity of it that a fine talent should be 
frustrated by an unskilful hand. He glanced 
round as much of the semi-circle as was within 
his view — ^the listless heads, the disposal of the 
limbs, signified nothing but weariness. Yesl one 
face spoke the emotion that stirred himself — one 
woman understood: Miss King was thinking his 
own thoughts. 

He spoke to her again as she was hastening 
up the steps, after a few insincere compliments 
had been made upon the work. She had bowed, 
and vanished, but he had overtaken her. That 
she should leave without saying "Good-after- 
noon," without approaching him, revived the 

Digitized by 



mental discomfort he had experienced* Circum- 
stances had once flmig them into an intimate, 
if short-lived, friendship, and though in the 
interval he had forgotten all about her, it hurt 
him to see that she felt they no longer met upon 
terms of equality. He was a leading man, and 
she remained an obscure actress: so she did not 
speak to him unless she was addressed 1 He could 
not bear that — ^it distressed hiuL 

"You're not going to run away before weVe 
said ten words to each other, are you?" he asked* 
"How do you like the play?" 

"I " she hesitated. "I should like very 

much to read it quietly by myself. Do you think 
it will succeed, Mr. Oliphant?" 

"I think my opinion of it's the same as your 

"The same as my own?" 

"Yes; I saw you while it was being read." 

She looked surprised, and a httle dismayed; 
"I hope Mundey didn't seel" 

"You needn't be alarmed! But shall I tell 
you what you thought? You thought what a 
good novel it would have made." 

"That's true," she acknowledged; "I did.'' 
They were at the comer of the street, and she 

Digitized by 



"Am I in the way?" inquired Oliphant. "Do 
you want me to say *Good-bye'?" 

"Not if we're going the same road; I go 
through Drury Lane." 

"So do I, if you'll let me. But it isn't about 
the play I want to talk to you; I want to hear 
about yourself. I thought perhaps you'd have 
written to me after you went to the Cape, to tell 
me how you got on. Why didn't you?" 

"I didn't like to," she said. "Did it look 

" 'Ungrateful'? What on earth had you to 
be grateful for? No; but I should have been 
pleased to hearl When did you say you came 
back — in January?" 

"I've been back six months. It was a very 
good engagement, in a sense — it lasted much 
longer than I had expected; I was out there two 
years. I didn't look forward to staying anjrthing 
like that time. I played in Cape Town and Kim- 
berley and Johannesburg, and became quite an 

"Was it pleasant?" 

"I don't like the country. The Colony and 
Johannesburg aren't so bad, but Kimberley is 
loathsome. It's none of it very agreeable, though, 
after the novelty wears oflF; and, oh, how dear! 
One's salary goes nowhere I After we left Cape 

Digitized by 



Town I used to pay a shilling for The Stage — 
when I bought it." 

"I suppose that wasn't often?" 

She laughed. "There were weeks when I 
missed it, if nobody had had a copy from home 
to lend me." 

"And since you have been back?" 

"I've been on tour with A Lilac Chain — not 
much of a company, of course 1 That's what I 
meant when I said it was a good engagement 'in 
a sense' : the Cape doesn't lead to anything — I'm 
just where I was when I went away. You've 
been marvellously fortunate, Mr. Oliphant, if I 
may say so." 

"Oh, please don't say *if you may say'l — ^why 
shouldn't you? Of course I've been fortunate. 
Luck's everything. It was The Impostor that 
gave me my opportimity, you know; Rayne had 
an accident, and I got the chance to play lead 
in town by accident. But for that I daresay I 
shouldn't be any better oflF than when we last 
met. I suppose you saw that The Impostor was 
produced soon after you left England?" 

"Yes, that was one of the weeks when I did 
see a paper — I was so glad! You mustn't say 
luck is everything, though. Luck gave you your 
chance, but you had the talent to make use of 
it. I never thought, when you told me the plot 

Digitized by 



of your drama that evening, that I should be 
reading a criticism of it in Cape Town two or 
three months later — it seemed so funny I That 
was when I was really tempted to write to you; 
but — oh, I don't know I — I hadn't done it when 
I arrived; and so to write to you when you had 
a success looked as if it would be rather mean. 
I thought so, anyhow. Oh, there's one thing I 
want to say — it isn't of engrossing interest, but 
I should like you to know: I sent the woman in 
Alfred Place her money I" 

"She deserved never to get it," said Oliphant; 
"but of course you didl Yes, I hoped for a 
line from you; and Mrs. — er — Tubbs — oh, Mrs. 
Tubbs mourned for youl You've no idea what 
an impression you made on Mrs. Tubbs. She 
used to talk about you daily." 

"I know," said Miss King; "so she tells me. 
I'm staying with her now." 

Oliphant wheeled round incredulously. 

"Really? Do you mean it? She's there still, 
and you're staying with her?" 

"I had to stay somewhere, and I thought of 
her at once. In point of fact," she added medita- 
tively, "I don't fancy Mrs. Tubbs is quite so 
cheap as she was. But she's just as nice." 

"How odd it seems," he said. "And is the 
fumitiu*e still blue? And is she still garrulous 

Digitized by 



about the niece who was in the *prerf ession' ? Did 
she mention me? She hadn't been to the Pan- 
theon, I suppose?'* 

"She hadn't been yet — no; but she mentioned 
you the evening I arrived." 

"I believe Mrs. Tubbs always took an interest 
in me," he said warmly. "I hope she wasn't 
hurt that I hadn't sent her seats? To tell you 
the truth, I never thought about it." 

''I don't think she was; indeed, I'm sure she 

"What did she say?" 

"I could tell she wasn't hurt." 

"She must have said something?'^ he smiled. 

"Well," replied Miss King with a glimmer of 
amusement in her eyes, "she said she hadn't heard 
of you since you left her and she hoped you were 

Their gaze met, and laughter broke from them 
both. "Thank you," exclaimed Oliphant, "I 
deserved it! But this is Fame! I am Mercutio 
in capital letters on the Pantheon bills, and my 
old landlady doesn't know it till you come from 
South Africa to tell her." It occurred to him 
to wonder if Miss King had heard of his mar- 
riage. "You haven't congratulated me," he said. 

"Oh, I have I" she replied; "in the theatre — 
the first thing." 

Digitized by 



"'I mean about something else. I'm married 

"Married?" she echoed. ^'Are you? ... I 
don't know why it should be astonishing, 
but " 

"It's perfectly true." 

"Oh, I congratulate you ever so much, of 
course. I knew nothing about it. I don't meet 
many people — I'm like Mrs. Tubbs, you see. Is 
your wife on the stage?" 

"Yes, I married Miss Blanche Ellerton. We — 
we've been married nearly eighteen months. I'm 
a husband and father; don't I look more impor- 

"I attributed it to other causes," she laughed; 
"now it's explained 1" 

They had reached New Oxford Street, and she 
paused again, and extended her hand. 

"I'm sure I've taken you miles out of your 
way," she said. "By the bye, what time is the 
call to-morrow, did you notice?" 

"Twelve o'clock. Isn't it tea-time, and 
mightn't we go and have some tea?" 

"Oh no, thanks," she said, "I want to get 

"Or chocolate? — I can recommend the choco- 
late. We've only to cross the road." 

"I'd rather not, thank you; Mrs. Tubbs would 

Digitized by 



be so wounded if I didn't want anything when 
I got inl" 

*' Answer me one question," he exclaimed; "do 
you have tea in the drawing-room, or the dining- 

"The drawing-room," said she gaily; "the blue 
drawing-room. Good-afternoon, Mr. Oliphant." 

"G<x)d-aftemoon, Miss King." 
'He retraced his steps to the Strand, and 
mentally followed hers. "The drawing-room" 
— ^how vividly he saw itl — and the brown tea-pot 
on the dilapidated tray hidden by a soiled table- 
napkin; the battered cover over the toast. It 
had been pleasant! — after all it had been pleas- 
ant! He was happy then, only he didn't know 
it . • • happier than now. 

Digitized by 



When the dramatic critics say that a part is 
unworthy of an actor's abilities, the author may 
not be gratified, but it means that the actor's 
spurs are securely fixed. Excepting Oliphant, 
who gained a little kudos, it is doubtful if Mun- 
dey's drama advanced any one professionally. 
Oliphant wondered if it would do Miss King any 
good. He was glad to see that several of the 
papers mentioned her favourably, though her 
performance did not receive the notices that he 
considered it deserved. During the fortnight's 
rehearsals he had had several conversations with 
her on the stage, and it would have pleased him 
very much indeed if the little part of "Patience 
Banfield" had proved a stepping-stone to higher 

He had watched her rehearsals with a curiosity 
that she did not divine — ^he was prepared to be 
disappointed, to find her execution fall short of 
her conceptions; but at least she had not fallen 
short of his. She was artistic to the finger-tips^ 


Digitized by 



and her voice was delicious; he could not say 
what she would do with such characters as she 
aspired to play, but he was persuaded that, given 
the opportunity, she would at all events get on. 

Apparently no opportunity presented itself, 
for when he met her in Wellington Street one 
day about a month after the piece had been pro- 
duced, she told him that she was ''going out" with 
A Lilac Chain again. 

He had not known how much he had hoped 
for her until he heard it; indeed, he was more 
disappointed than she; in her, expectation had 
long grown faint. 

''I wish," he remarked to Blanche, ''I could 
have done something to help Miss King." 

"Why?" she said. 

"I like her, and she's clever. I'd have been 
very glad to do her a service." 

"I didn't think much of her at the Mirror. 
What have you seen her play in besides Mundey's 

"Nothing else. But she was admirable in that ; 
you must remember there was no scope for big 

"I thought you were in the provinces with her 
once. How did you know her then?" 

"I knew her in London," he answered; "we 
stayed in the same lodgings for a week or two." 

Digitized by 



Blanche yawned, and he was relieved that she 
did not pursue the subject. It would hardly be 
fair, he thought, to explain the circumstances 
that had led to their being in the same lodgings. 
It was a story that might be misconstrued, espe- 
cially by a woman like his wife. 

Yes, he was sorry he had no influence to assist 
Miss King. He did like her. He wished, for her 
sake, that she were settled in town; and for his 
own, he wished that she and Blanche were friends. 
She would have been a visitor who interested him. 
It would have been an agreeable, a stimulating 
afternoon, when she called — it would have taken 
him out of himself for an hour; or, more pre- 
cisely, he could have been himself. Then the 
momentary reflection caused him to perceive how 
improbable it was that Blanche and she would 
attract each other; they were so unlike — ^he did 
not think two women could be more dissimilar. 
Everjrthing in Blanche that jarred upon him 
would jar upon Miss King. . . . Yes, that was 
a fact! It hadn't occurred to him before, but — 
but it was true. 

Greatorex was about to begin his customary 
tour, and on his return to the Pantheon the 
revival of Romeo and Juliet would be resiuned. 
Enormously successful as this had been, though, 
it could not continue much longer, and Oliphant 

Digitized by 



was again constrained to wonder if his engage- 
ment was drawing to a close. For Mercutio, as 
for Faust, he had been engaged only for the ^'run 
of the piece.*' If he were oflFered a second re- 
engagement, he might reasonably expect to 
obtain a second increase of terms, but as he and 
Blanche were already hving quite as luxuriously 
as he desired, he wasn't eager for a higher salary; 
he was inclined to wish that he had had a three- 
years contract for a fixed smn, so that he could 
have felt calmly confident of remaining at the 
house until a distant date. 

Blanche did not accompany her husband cm 
tour. Last simtmier she had not been well enough 
to do so, and now to undertake a railway joimiey 
every week with a baby and a nurse would have 
been absurd. She had talked of taking them to 
Eastbourne during his absence, for she could not 
look forward to acting again until theatrical 
London woke to activity in the autumn. 

This year the company's "dates" included 
Brighton. It was the last place they visited, and 
they arrived after the August heat had subsided 
and the season had begun. As the cab rattled 
Oliphant past a hoarding on the way to his apart- 
ments, he caught sight of the title A Lilac Chain 
on a poster of one of the two lesser theatres; and, 
fresh from the bill-sticker's brush, the advertise- 

Digitized by 



ment was pleasant to him on entering the town. 
So Miss King was here I He hoped he'd meet 

The hope was fulfilled on the next morning 
but one. He did not admit to himself that he 
was pacing the front after he was tired of it, but 
he was feeling dejected when they came face to 
face at last. 

Naturally she was not surprised; everybody at 
Brighton was aware that Greatorex was at the 

"Of course you know you're an enemy?" she 
said, smiling. "'The Pantheon company is ruin- 
ing our business here; if I weren't a traitress to 
my manager, I shouldn't talk to you." 

"Oh, please be a traitress," he said. "I won- 
dered if I should come across you. Are you 
really doing badly?" 

"Well, it's not one of the things one is sup- 
posed to confess, but I don't think we're turning 
money away. Where do you go next week? 
You're not against us again?" 

"We go back to London. And you?" 

"Oh, nothing so distinguished — ^weVe a dread- 
ful j oumey to Plymouth. How is the baby — ^and 
your wife?" 

"They're very well," he said, "thanks. I should 
like you to meet my wife one day. She's in town 

Digitized by 



now, or I'd ask you if we might call on you. 
What is your part hke in this? I looked to see 
if you had a Wednesday matinee — ^if you had, I 
should come." 

"My part is very good — it always is — in the 
provinces or South Africa, where it doesn^t ad- 
vance me. When I say *good,' please imderstand 
that I'm speaking strictly as an actress; I don't 
mean that it has anything in it: I mean that I've 
situations, and plenty to say." 

"You ask for too much," he answered with a 

"Because I want to succeed?" 

"Oh no; because you're not satisfied with situa- 
tions and plenty to say." 

"That's true," she said, "although you didn't 
mean it. I do ask for too much — ^perhaps that's 
why I get so little. It's hard, though, when you 

feel yourself capable of Oh, how terrible 

that sounds! I don't think I'm a vain woman, 
but if I'd gone on then, I should have horrified 

He shook his head. "I don't think you 
would. If I were a dramatist I should want you 
in my cast. I don't know what you'd be like 
as Lady Macbeth " 

"I know," she said; "I should be shocking." 

"But I can see you in some parts. If Mundey 

Digitized by 



had been a personage in the theatre, even 
Tatienee' would have proved useful to you: he 
thought you excellent. It was your misfortune 
that you were in a piece by a man who may never 
write another." 

She did not make it easy for him to turn beside 
her, and after a few more seconds he took his 
leave. He trusted, however, that the morrow 
would be fine. And it was. 

He chose the King's Road again, but it proved 
a disappointment. A board proclaiming at the 
entrance that the ^'band was now playing" sug- 
gested that she might be met on the pier, but 
here also he failed; and, discarding the shops as 
improbable, since she was only in a watering- 
place for a week, he sauntered next along the 

^It was on the sea-wall, on a bench with a book, 
that he discovered her, and now their conversa- 
tion was wider, more inspiriting. This was on 
Wednesday; and on Thursday he reached the 
sea-wall earlier. 

In conversation the added gravity in her 
demeanour that had struck him when he saw her 
on the Mirror stage, often fell from her. Her 
enthusiasm for something beautiful would 
brighten her face, and the man's mood. She 
understood so quickly — and she was so well 

Digitized by 



worth understanding. Their ideas were not 
always the same, but it was an unfamiliar joy 
to him to find himself uttering his thoughts with- 
out the sharp fear of their exciting ridicule acting 
as a brake. Even when Miss King took a differ- 
ent view from his, they thought so much alike 
essentially, that their arguments, like the sides 
of a triangle, always met at the apex, and their 
point was one after alL 

On Friday she was not there. But when he 
tried the pier once more she was among a group 
that watched the departure of the Worthing boat. 

As he recognised his hking for her, it was 
platonic. If he had been told that in seeking 
her he was committing an indiscretion, he would 
have laughed at the statement quite honestly. 
It was she who reahsed that for them to spend 
the morning together every day was inadvisable, 
though her reason was merely that his wife might 
not like it. However, now that he was here, it 
would have been self-conscious to hurry away, 
and he appealed to her sufliciently for her re- 
straint to vanish ten minutes after they sat 

He had appealed to her always, and at the 
Cape she had often looked back on their acquaint- 
ance. No doubt it remained fresh in her memory 
chiefly because it had been attributable to an 

Digitized by 



occurrence which no woman could ever forget; 
but the man's personality had had something to 
do with the fact as well. In retrospection, too. 
she perceived much that she had ignored, or 
taken for granted, at the time, and she told her- 
self that there were few men who would have 
proved so chivalrous to a girl under such condi- 
tions. It was natural that these should appear 
more appalling to her on every occasion that she 
dwelt upon them; and the more she shuddered 
at the danger that she had run, the more ex- 
aggerated was the tribute that she paid to her 
companion's loyalty. 

"What train do you go by on Sunday?" she 
asked. "How glad you must be that you'll soon 
be home." 

"We go in the morning; I don't know by which 
train. Oh yes, of course, it will be very nice to 
be at home." He felt that his tone had had less 
warmth than he had tried to throw into it, and 
so did she; it was a surprise, and something of 
a shock to her. He added quickly : "Fortimately, 
my wife isn't playing now, or I should find the 
evenings rather dull till we reopen." 

"Isn't it wonderful to you sometimes," said 
Miss King, "to reflect that you're Mercutio at 
the Pantheon?" 

"Don't think I'm ungrateful; but it isn't, any 

Digitized by 



longer. I only wonder that I donH find it won- 

"But that's pathetic," she said; "I shouldn't 
like that. Do you mean to say that the pleasure 
of success is so very fleeting, that you, who not 
three years ago were — ^may I say it? — who not 
three years ago were quite unknown in Liondon, 
and spoke of pawning your watch, are hlas6 

"I did pawn it," said Oliphant. "I don't like 
the word hlas6; it always sounds a pose to me; 
but it's true that I haven't the thrill, the ecstasy 
that I always imagined I should have, presimiing 
I ever got so far. You were stage struck before 
you went into the profession, of course?" 

"Violently; I used to tremble at the sight of a 
playbill. Why?" 

"Well, after you had been acting for a year, 
didn't you ever stand on a stage just before the 
curtain went up, dismayed to find yourself so 
cool? Didn't you ever think: *I am an actress; 
I am standing here on a real stage, behind a real 
curtain, and there's a real audience on the other 
side of it who'll hear me speak my six lines in a 
minute or two'? Didn't you try to work your- 
self up into the state of tremor that you were 
astonished that you didn't feel?" 

Digitized by 



She nodded. ''Often! It's just what I did 

"Well, it's just the same when one gets further. 
I say, 'How rapturous it ought to beT " 

"It's not a fair comparison," she said earnestly; 
"that's wrong, it's wicked of you. Do you know 
what that will mean if you aren't careful? — it 
will mean that you'll lose your ambition. Don't 
do that. You won't — because we both love the 
stage, and it needs ideals — you won't be false to 
that dream of yours?" 

"Why," he cried, "didn't we talk of it yester- 
day? You forget." 

"I missed something yesterday," she said; "I 
don't forget. I remember how you talked that 
day outside the Museum, and you didn't spund 
quite so fervid yesterday." 

Oliphant sighed. He had not married Blanche 
when he dreamed outside the Museum. Dulling 
his aspiration now was the vague consciousness 
that he was picturing a future which his wife 
would depreciate were it gained. 

"I am as fervid in my heart," he said, "God 
knows. In my heart the stage is as dear to me, 
my aims are as high, as before you and I ever 
met — as high as when I was at the Varsity seeing 
visions, and worshipping a stage that doesn't 

Digitized by 



"I'm glad," she said, "/'m nobody; and when 
your theatre exists I shall be too old to begin 
to make a reputation in London, and too sad to 
go there only to make a living. But all for our 
stage, and not for myself, I should like to see 
you, who have the talent and the chance, keep 
brave enough to make your dream come true. 
Remember that a man is yoimg as long as he 
retains his enthusiasm; you have such time in 
front of you — ^use it for all it's worth! Your 
opportunities are so splendid — don't waste them. 
Accomplish, Mr. Oliphant. Think what you've 
done, and strain every nerve till you've done all 
you meant to do." 

The band had finished, and the crowd was 
streaming towards the turnstiles. Miss King 
rose, and he sauntered beside her to the Parade. 
Here they were about to separate, for their lodg- 
ings lay in opposite directions, but as they loi- 
tered to a standstill Oliphant was greeted by the 
actor who played the part of Friar Laurence. 
The Friar told him that a telegram for him was 
lying at the theatre, and having dropped the 
information, continued his way, which was to the 
Bodega. When Oliphant rejoined her. Alma 
saw that he had turned pale. 

"Is anything the matter?" 

''He says there's a wire for me at the theatre; 

Digitized by 



it can only be from home — I'm afraid the baby 
may be ill/* 

"Oh," she faltered, "why imagine such a 
thing?" She looked away, with a pang at her 
heart — she had now learned almost as much of 
his married life as he could have told her. 

"The Royal is on your road, isn't it? Do you 
mind driving?" He hailed an open fly at the 
same moment, and she got in. 

"You're very foolish to be frightened," she 
said, as he took his seat; "surely there may be 
a dozen reasons why your wife should wire you? 
Mightn't it be business?" 

"I daresay — I don't know. I suppose it's 
foolish, but she has never wired me before; it was 
the first thing I thought of." It was only now 
that it occurred to him that it might be Blanche 
who was ilL "Of course she may be ill herself," 
he muttered. "Or — or it may be nothing at 

She saw that the kindest thing she could do 
was to be silent; and they did not speak until 
the stage-door was reached. 

"Don't stop inside I" she said. 

The door swung to behind him, and she sat 
watching it. 

OUphant tore the telegram open in the pas- 
sage. There was no shock, only a confirmation 

Digitized by 



of his groundless terror. The message ran: 
"Baby ill ; I think you ought to come up quickly.'* 
He put his hand over his eyes. "Quickly?'* But 
he must play Mercutio first! And meanwhile 
the child might die. 

He walked back to the cab, and held the tele- 
gram out. He did not look at her as she read 
it — ^he was looking at nothing up the street. The 
pause in which her sympathy sought for words 
seemed to the woman to last a long time. 

"Is it strange for a man to care so much for 
a little baby?" he asked huskily. 

"What can I say to you?" she murmured, in 
a voice that expressed everything. "You can 
be there to-night? Oh, of course — Mercutio has 
finished so early 1 What train can you catch?" 

"I don't know — I must find out. Don't 

trouble; it's awfully good of you, but I'm 

very fond of him, you see, and of course I'm 
worried. I'll go and look at a time-table." 

"It mayn't be so serious as your wife thinks. 
She'd naturally be alarmed and fear the worst 
When you get home, you may find him out of 
danger." But she had noticed that the telegram 
had been despatched at seven in the morning, 
and she felt what this delay that he had to bear 
must be to him. 

"I daresay," he said; "yes — ^thanks. Where 

Digitized by 



shall I tell the man to drive? No, why get out? 
What street did you say you were in?" 

She steadied her lip between her teeth for an 
instant. "Dome Street," she said; "number six. 
Will you — ^Mr. Oliphant, will you let me know 
when you come back? Hope for the best!" 

He had paid the cabman, and was turning 
away when she called to him eagerly. 

"(xct in," she cried, "get in and drive to the 
station! Perhaps you can get home and back 
before the piece begins!" 

He hadn't thought of that. The suggestion, 
the vague chance, quickened his nerves. The 
cab rocked as they raced up the hill. 

They learnt that the best train left at two, and 
was due at Victoria at 3.40. He might be at 
home before four; the doubt was whether he 
could return in time. But they had ten minutes 
to find out, and they saw that, allowing him an 
hour in the flat, it was possible; there was a train 
from Victoria at 5.2 which reached Brighton at 

"You'll soon be with him now," she said at 
the window of the compartment. "Don't worry 
more than you can help!" 

Her earnest face was the last thing that im- 
pressed him vividly until he saw his wife's. 

There was no need to frame the question. The 

Digitized by 



answer was in the air. He knew the child was 

Blanche's eyes were swollen, and the hair on 
her forehead was moist with eau de Cologne. 
Her hands hung inertly at her sides. At the 
sight of him she bm*st into tears, and he took her 
in his arms. Neither had spoken yet. She spoke 

"He died at ten o'clock," she said. 

Oliphant released her, and crossed the floor 
quite aimlessly. He stared down at the traffic 
for a minute, and retraced his steps. 

"What time did he — die?" he asked. 

"At ten o'clock," she repeated. "We thought 
it was only a cold — ^with his teeth; and then the 
doctor said it was pneumonia. He was a very 
good doctor. Mother was here, too — she's just 
gone out; she'll be back presently. Oh, my little 
angel in Heaven! I've cried myself illl" 

"Where?" said Oliphant, after another silence. 

"In the nursery," she replied. 

The word made him wince. He went to the 
room slowly, and crept forward as if the child 
had slept. The curtains of the cot were drawn. 
He parted them, and looked. He had left the 
door open: he went back and shut it; and sat 

The woman wandered about the drawing- 

Digitized by 



room. Her head ached badly, and she reflected 
that it was fortunate "Mother" was available "to 
see to things," for she could never have done it 
herself: she was too highly strung. It seemed 
thankless to perceive the fact — and she wouldn't 
for the world hurt Mother's feelings by hinting 
it — but to be able to attend to such matters im- 
plied a certain callousness. . . . Her little angel 
in Heaven! She gazed at the sky from the win- 
dow where Oliphant had stared at the omnibuses. 
Her "precious" was with Godl The possibility 
of a future state was a subject to which normally 
she never gave a thought, but now an unconscious 
remembrance of a Transformation Scene soothed 
her pain. . • . 

Royce was a long while in there! He would 
be frightfully grieved of course — ^he had been so 
fond of Baby. What she really needed was to 
be with someone who hadn't loved the mite; she 
was so miserable that she wanted brightening up 1 
She required to be taken away somewhere and 
made to forget; she ought to be compelled to 
gather a little amusement. . . . 

Jay's! . . . Crape for an infant would be too 

much. In black, as she had fair hair How 

horrid it was to be obliged to think of such 
things! Ah, but how passionately she suffered 
in her heart — ^nobody could understand! Still 

Digitized by 



people would pity her, and talk. Even the 
public would speak of her loss sympathetically: 
"That poor Blanche Ellerton 1" If The Era and 
The Stage commented on it, no doubt a few of 
the other papers would say something too. What 
day was it? Friday, (Oh, the imlucky dayl 
her darling had died on a Friday!) The Era 
came out to-morrow — ^they wouldn't know so 
soon. Unless • . . Perhaps if the news were 
"expressed" to the oflBice at once ? 

Ohphant replaced the curtains gently. He 
fancied it must be nearly half an hour since he 
entered the room; he had forgotten Blanche, and 
before he left he must try to comfort her. Poor 
girl, how red her eyes were 1 

She rose and went to him quickly as he re- 
turned, and he held her close again. 

"Doesn't he look sweet?" she whispered. 

He found nothing to say in answer to this. 

"I shall be home on Sunday, for good, you 
know," he said, since speech was essential. 

She nodded. "When's your train back?" 

"At five." He glanced at his watch — the time 
had gone more rapidly than he had supposed. 
"Your mother will stop with you, won't she?" 

"Yes. . . . Have you had anything to eat? 
Will you have something now?" 

"I'm not hungry; no, thanks, dear.'* 

Digitized by 



**You*d better have a drink," she said, turning 
to a syphon and a spirit-flask, "IVe just had 
some brandy for my head. You ought to have 
something or other before the showl" 

He sat down in the chair that she had vacated 
by the table. A letter, not folded yet, lay against 
his hand, and he drummed his fingers on it while 
she poured out the brandy. He pushed it to and 
fro. He began to read it — mechanically, with 
no interest in the letter. Its sense did not pene- 
trate his stupor all at once : "I should be so grate- 
ful if you could find space to mention. . . . My 
little baby died this morning." What was that? 
"I should be so grateful if you could find 

space " O Godl The meaning rushed upon 

him and turned him sick. She could devise an 
advertisement from her child's death! 

The soda-water spurted noisily. It was the 
only sound in the room for several seconds. He 
sat motionless, his gaze riveted on her hand- 
writing; and Blanche, holding the glass, stood 
watching him. She was chagrined to find him 
reading the note — he might misconstrue it and 
think her unfeeling! Was he going to reproach 

He was questioning what he should say. That 
she revolted him? He could tell her no less if 
he spoke of it at all. He might destroy the note. 

Digitized by 



forbid its being sent. She would defend herself, 
perhaps have hysterics; and he was too heart- 
sick to remonstrate and discuss and upbraid. To 
what end all that? She was as she was; a pdn- 
f ul scene wouldn't regenerate her. But was she 

He got up, and she met him with the glass 

"You're going to have your drink, aren't you?" 
she asked. 

"No," he said, "I don't want one, thank you. 
I must go, or I shall miss the train. Where's 
my hat? . . . Good-bye." 

"Good-bye, darling," she said. 

He would not, he could not, touch her face; 
he dropped the sound of a kiss upon her hair. 
She had put her arms round his neck, and he 
thanked Heaven when he was free of them. 

To act at night was a restorative; it was the 
afterwards, sitting alone in his apartments, that 
was terrible. And more terrible still was the 
thought that he must so soon sit with her at home. 
Home? The place where she had trampled on 
the dead! Now that the child was gone, what 
did it hold? His child, even more his hopes for 
his child, had leavened the bitterness of his 
blunder; but the pictures he had seen of Hugh 
at three and Hugh at seven, of Hugh head boy 

Digitized by 



at Harrow, could never be looked at again. 
They must be put away — ^his pictures and Baby's 

all together. And she could And she was 

his wifel The woman who could do this thing 
was his wifel Why should such women bear 
children? Well, she had known herself; she had 
done her best to prevent it I 

He remembered that Miss King was waiting 
to hear from him — ^he would go in the morning. 
She had told him her address, and begged him 
to let her know. The number had escaped him, 
but she was staying in Dome Street. Was it 

He went at half -past ten, before she was likely 
to be out. The alternative of seeking her among 
the crowd on the front jarred upon him to-day, 
and in the afternoon she would be playing at 
the theatre. 

The landlady ushered him without inquiry into 
a small parlour. Alma was kneeling before a 
theatrical hamper, completing her packing. She 
lifted herself slowly, and advanced with her gaze 
fixed on his face. 

"He is dead," said Oliphant. 

She put out her hand, and he held it tightly. 
There was comfort in her touch. 

"Sit down," she mimnured, moving to the 
hearth. "I — I was afraid it meant that, when 

Digitized by 



no message came last night. • • • You know 
what I want to ask you?" 

"I was too late." 

They sat opposite each other without speak- 
ing. The misery in his eyes made her heart 

"You*re packing early," said Oliphant at last, 
with an effort. 

"Yes; we've a matinee, you know, and the 
lorry will be here this afternoon. We leave at 
seven in the morning." 

"Where do you go? — to Plymouth, isn't it? 
And then? How long does the tour last?" 

"I think we're booked up to the last week in 
December. Don't make small talk, please. I 
don't want to." 

"I didn't come to depress you — ^perhaps it was 
rather cowardly to come at all. I might have 
sent you word." 

"It was kinder to come. I don't like to ask 
you questions, but if you could speak of him to 
me, I should be glad." 

"It's all herer he exclaimed chokily. 

"Ah, I know. But it will go — the worst. The 
memory won't go, but it gets tenderer. You'll 
love to think of him by and by." 

"It seems so motiveless, a little child like that. 
He was — if you had seen him you'd understand. 

Digitized by 



Of course everybody thinks his own child best, 
but he — had ways. Why should he be bom only 
to be snatched from me again? I wanted him 
so muchl . . . You believe — do you believe — ^in 

"Yes, I*m so simple a woman that IVe never 
questioned it. When I lost my mother, my only 
comfort was that I wasn't clever and full of 
doubts. Are you so clever that you're hopeless 

"No; I believe," he said. "I haven't the im- 
agination to conceive that Heaven's a myth." 

"I suppose that each of us has a different 
notion of Heaven, just as all the notions are 
wrong; but I only think of it as a place where 
people who've loved are given back to one an- 
other and need never fear parting any more. I 
don't see how mine can be very wrong. And I 
think we shall look just the same to them, 
although we may have grown old since we lost 
them, as we did the day they died. I think I 
shall still look a girl to my mother if I live to be 
eighty." She gave a half smile. "If I am good 
enough to go to Heaven 1" 

"And they too us?" he asked. "Should I find 
a baby in fifty years?" 

"Yes, I think you would find a little baby in 
fifty years. Just the little baby you had kissed. 

Digitized by 



and remembered. But you should be able to give 
ideas to me — ^you were going to be a clergy- 

"You," said Oliphant, "are a good woman; 
a good woman can teach us alL" He had not 
mentioned his wife's name, and the reservation 
by which he imagined that half his sorrow had 
been concealed was doubling Alma's compassion 
for him. 

He was loath to take his leave, and even when 
he had risen, they lingered by the window. 

"I'm glad I came," he said at last; "you've 
been very kind to me. I wish we hadn't matinees, 
or that you didn't start so early to-morrow. Now 
I'll let you finish your packing." He looked 
round the humble room bright with the morning 
sunshine. "Are those books yours? Are they 
to go in too?" He went to the chair where they 
lay, and brought them to her, and stood beside 
her while she put them in the hamper. "Good- 
bye, Miss King." 

"Good-bye," she said. "And think of yoiur 
art and your hopes, and make us all proud of 

"I wonder when I shall meet you again? You 
and I are always being good friends for a little 
while, and then losing sight of each other, aren't 

Digitized by 



The firmness of her hand-clasp seemed to lend 
him strength, as it had given him comfort when 
he entered. Yes, his art remained! 

Alma went back to the window, and watched 
him till he turned the comer of the street. 

Digitized by 



He did not return to town until the morning 
of the funeral. In the afternoon the cot and the 
toys, all the belongings of the dead baby, were 
removed from the nursery. The room was now 
Oliphant's; it was here that he studied and he 

There had been no open rupture, for Blanche 
had refrained from asking his reason; she knew 
it, and affected to attribute the expression of his 
wish to morbid grief. She considered that he 
was suffering from a temporary derangement of 
the intellect, and the time to show her resentment 
would be when he came to his senses. 

But to a man of Oliphant's temperament no 
other course was possible if they were to remain 
under one roof. When he reflected that within 
six hours of their child's death she could do what 
she had done, she appeared to him a monstrosity. 
Every nerve in him shrank from the suggestion 
of contact with her. He felt that to take this 
abnormal creature in his arms as a wife would 


Digitized by 



be a horrible action — an oflFence after which he 
would be degraded, and repulsive to himself. 

Holding his cause the slightest, and yet afraid 
of discussing it, Blanche's disguise was at first 
painfully thin, her amiability was an obvious 
bravado. But as the weeks went by, the influence 
of custom softened the asperities of the anoma- 
lous relationship. Both were in engagements: 
Oliphant still at the Pantheon — where Borneo 
and Juliet had been succeeded by a revival of 
Much Ado About Nothing — and the woman de- 
riving consolation from a hit at the Fall MalL 
With months they acquired a manner nearly as 
free as that which had subsisted between them 
before the baby died. Oliphant could sit in a 
room with her without shuddering; and if a pro- 
longed tete-a-tete distressed him still, this had 
its compensation to her in the fact that it made 
him readier to accept the invitations of "people 
worth knowing" — a circle which, thanks to her 
assiduity and his professional successes, was 
gradually widening to the "romantic couple." 

By the time the season had well advanced, the 
circle had supplied a counter-irritant to her 
original complaint. People, otherwise well-bred, 
question artists about their prospects and their 
incomes with an effrontery that they would never 
dream of displaying towards those in business, 

Digitized by 



and gushing matrons sometimes asked her when 
she and her clever, delightful husband were going 
to have a theatre of their own. This unconscious 
impertinence galled her, because if Royce had 
not been a noodle — ^that was how she mentally 
expressed it — they might have had their own 
theatre already. She craved for her own theatre 
and the attendant importance. When she men- 
tioned the subject to him he was as unsatisfactory 
as ever, and there were moments of solitude in 
which she raged, and demanded of the irrespon- 
sive walls what marriage with such a visionary 
had given to her. 

She determined to put Otho Fairbaim*s 
friendship to the test herself; and one afternoon, 
when she was at home alone, he was announced. 
She prayed that no one else would calL 

"Royce is out," she murmured; "but I daresay 
he'll be back soon. Put your hat down." 

"You look tired," he said with concern. 

She shrugged her shoulders and laughed con- 
strainedly: "Oh nol What's the news?" 

"With me? Do I ever have news? I came 
to hear news — to be entertained. Behold the 
selfishness of man and the abuse of hospitality 1" 

"I don't think you ever find us very entertain- 
ing, do you?" she said. "I was beginning to think 
you found us so dull that you weren't coming 

Digitized by 



any more. How long is it since youVe been here 
— three months?" 

"Mrs. Roycel" He had begged leave to eaU 
her "Mrs. Royce," saying "the other somided 
so awfully formal"; and when she had hsped 
**Otho formall" permission was accorded. 

"Three months, isn't it?" she said; "or is it 
fom*? We were asking each other what we had 

"Mrs. Roycel It's not two! And I've been 
away. You aren't offended with me really, are 

Until now it had not occurred to her that she 
might be offended; she had only been impatient 
for his visit; but it was amusing to watch his 
pink-and-white dismay. She nodded slowly. 

"Oh, I say, I'm immensely sorry," he ex- 
claimed, "if you mean it I And is Royce, too?" 

"I can't answer for Royce. I'm offended, if 
that matters!" 

"Oh, please don't be unkind; I've been away, 
on my honour ! I left town the first week in May 
— broke all my engagements and went into the 
country. Impulse. But in future I am always 
going to spend the season in the country. That 
London should be fashionable during the months 
when the country looks its loveliest is a monu- 
mental instance of human perversity. I was at 

Digitized by 



Studland — I don't suppose you know it? I can't 
tell you how peaceful, how divine it was I" 

"Has she accepted you?" asked the lady. 

"Oh, now you're chaffing — ^that means I'm for- 
given. Thank you, Mrs. Royce." 

"I'm quite serious. You don't expect me to 
believe that you left town in May for — ^where 
was it? — somewhere peaceful and divine, unless 
there was an attraction?" 

"There was an attraction," said Otho; "there 
was Natm^el Natm^e and Art. I was down 
there with a man who was making studies for a 
pictm^e. You observe I'm technical: 'making 
studies'! He used to paint, and I used to read 
poetry. I got up at eight every morning, and 
lived in the sunshine. When I think of all the 
springs I've wasted in Piccadilly I feel I've been 
a most awful ass, really I do." 

"And you didn't read the poetry to a girl?" 

"I never spoke to a girl the whole time I was 
there. One doesn't keep talking about some 
things, Mrs. Royce, but there are wounds that 
don't heal." He looked at her plaintively. "Did 
you think I was so shallow that I could forget 
so soon? You were very nice to me once when I 
stayed and bored you an unconscionable time. I 
thought you understood that I shouldn't for- 

Digitized by 



"But you must forget/' she replied. "I re- 
member what I said better than you do. I said 
you'd meet somebody before long who would 
make you ashamed of yourself for having railed 
against us poor women. AU women were heart- 
less because one girl had treated you badly. Oh, 
Mr. Fairbaiml" 

"I know," he said. "Yes, I was very absiu*d — 
all that's past. You were the ^somebody' who 
made me ashamed of that. But I shaU never 
love again. I could never feel more than friend- 
ship for any woman now." 

"You are very faithful!" she said, regarding 
him with a display of eager interest. "I thought 
it was only my sex who could be so faithful as 
aU that?" 

'Tour sex?" he exclaimed. "Why " 

"Ahl" she said, lifting an admonitory finger. 

''You are always the exception, Mrs. Roycel" 
he laughed. 

"The ^present company,'" said she. "Of 
course 1" 

"No, but I mean it honestly. I've never seen 
any woman so — so sympathetic, and so devoted 
to her husband as you are. I congratulated 
Royce verbally before I met you — as in duty 
bound; but since I've known you, I've congratu- 
lated him a hundred times in my own mind. And 

Digitized by 



how he has forged ahead since his marriage 1 
YouVe been a Mascotte to him.** 

She sighed. 

"Don't you think you have? Why are you 
looking doubtful?" 

"Oh, of course he has got on," she said; "but 
I wish my mascotry — what is the word? — could 
take him furtherl I want to see Royce in a 
position to choose his parts and to show peopk 
what he can really do." 

"He ought to have a theatre," said Fairbaim. 

Her hands rose, and fell to her lap, in a little 
impatient gesture: "Let's talk of something else, 
Mr. Fairbaim, please — I didn't mean to mention 
this! I know you once oflFered to start him in a 
theatre, so it's the one subject I can't speak to 
you about." 

"But why?" he asked. ^'Why can't you?" 

"Isn't it natural? You might think I 

Besides, Royce would be very angry if he knew 
that I'd let you guess we were troubled." 

"Do you mean that you are in trouble because 
he can't take a theatre — that you are both worry- 
ing about it?" 

"Don't make me say any more," she begged. 
"I'd rather notl" 

"But" his eyes were big and grieved. "Is 

this fair to me? You know I'd like to serve 

Digitized by 



Royce. And I thought you and I were friends? 
You must trust me. Between ourselves 1 Do 
you really mean you're both worried because he 
can't take a theatre?" 

**Well, I'll say that I am. If you spoke to 
Royce, he would teU you that it is too soon — 
according to Royce it will always be too soon! 
Royce lacks confidence. This is one of the cases 
where a woman sees further than a man. Royce 
is wasting his time at the Pantheon now. He 
can never do any better there than he has done. 
What has he to look forward to? That Greatorex 
will ask him to play Ms parts ? Or put on Othello 
to give Mr. Royce Oliphant the opportunity to 
make the success of the evening as lago? Short 
of management he has gone as far as he can 
get. Weill one day he will go into management. 
Some capitalist will come along and offer to 
back him — ^there is no risk about it; it will be 
a very good investment — ^but he won't be so 
young then; some of his best years will have 
been lost; the time between to-day and the day 
when the capitalist appears wiU have been 
wasted. I see it more clearly than the poor boy 
himself, though, if he told the truth, he sees it 
partially too. As his wife, how can I help being 

**But, my dear Mrs. Royce," cried Otho, "why 

Digitized by 



haven't you said this to me before? You knew 

of my oflFer to him ^why didn't you hint to 

me that it might be repeated ? I've never thought 
about it; he seemed to me to be doing splendidty 
— ^what do I know of stage matters? I feel 
awfully guilty, really! Of course, he ought to 
have a theatre! Now you've put it to me, I 
understand. I'll have a talk to him this after- 

"No, no!" she said, aflame with joy; "it 
mustn't look as if it came from me — he'd never 
forgive me. Speak to him when you're here 
again; and be firm! Tell him he's a fool, and 
insist on having your way — I should fancy you 
generally get your way when your mind is made 

up, don't you? Say oh, say whatever you 

like, but don't let him suspect that we've been 
exchanging confidences, or his pride will be up 
in arms in a moment!" 

Otho promised to exercise the utmost diplo- 
macy; the confederate was to say littl^ and he 
was to address his arguments as much to her as 
to Oliphant. It was arranged that he should 
drop in a few days later without warning. The 
subtlety of the well-meant scheme to deceive his 
friend pleased him vastly, and it was not a whit 
less gratifying as he took his leave to remember 
that "Mrs. Royce" would be benefited as well 

Digitized by 



Blanche thought he was the most charming 
yomig man she had ever met. She had not 
nursed many misgivings, but the alacrity of his 
response warmed her heart towards him; she 
regretted that she had been compelled to be a 
trifle disingenuous. 

The plan was duly executed; but, to her sur- 
prise and joy, Oliphant demurred very faintly. 
He proved quite willing to be persuaded that it 
was not premature for him to adventure manage- 
ment. He had been loath to take the first step, 
averse from asking the favour, but now that 
Fairbaim again came forward without solicita- 
tion, every pulse in him leapt with gladness. 

"You would be backing your opinion of us 
very heavily, Otho," he said; "don't forget that 
if it proved a mistake, it would be an expensive 
one I If you're prepared to risk it. Heaven 
knows / can't say 'Don't' ! But think the matter 
well over first; we'll talk of it again." 

"I've nothing to think about," persisted Fair- 
baim; "it's for you to say *yes' or *no.* If I'm 
any judge of acting, I shan't lose — on the con- 
trary, it will be a rattling good thing for me." 
He turned to Blanche. "You see the commer- 
cial instinct can't be silenced, Mrs. Royce; it's 

She laughed. "A theatre is a business to 

Digitized by 



everyone. Well, it's nothing to do with 
Royce must decide." 

"You know the only lines on which I'd run 
a theatre," said Oliphant, speaking thickly; '1 
want to produce the best available work. There 
will be no concessions to catch the crowd. There 
is no fortune, no large income, to be made from 
a theatre that I controL" 

"It's going to be *art for art's sake,' " returned 
Otho; "I quite understand. I haven't a con- 
suming desire to drop a heap of money, but I 
can't pretend that I'm only actuated by the hope 
of making a pot, either. If it does put anything 
in my pocket, I shan't be angry i^nth you; if it 
only pays expenses there'll be satisfacticm enou^ 
in feeling that I've a share in an artistic under- 
taking. Which theatre do you think you might 

"I haven't a notion. We shan't get a house 
directly we want one, you know — I can't walk 
into management next month. And first there 
are the plays to be considered — ^there are a great 
many things to be considered! I warn you 
you'll be badgered to death before the curtain 
goes up." 

"Not I! I shall come to the first ni^^t, or 
the dress-rehearsal, when the bother is all over. 
The work is for you, my friend I" 

Digitized by 



"Well," cried Oliphant, "we shaU have to go 
into figures, and you shall tell me what your idea 
is/' His excitement broke into action, and he 
clapped Fairbaim on the shoulder wildly. "You 
shall be proud of your stage, Othol I don't 
swear for the actor-manager, but you shall be 
proud of the work, I promise you 1 What do you 
say, Blanche? We'll do him justice, won't we?" 

She assented gaily, but he had not waited for 
her assent. Momentarily he had forgotten that 
their views were opposed, and his delight was 
boundless. It was only after an appointment 
had been made for the morrow, and Fairbaim 
had gone, that the first stir of remembrance 
tinged elation with regret, and he perceived anew 
that to his own ears the triumphal march must 
always have a discord. 

Blanche and he paced the room. Both were 
shaken by the prospect, but to each the prospect 
was different. The wife saw the obvious — showy 
parts, pubUc adulation and professional defer- 
ence, and a hfe-size portrait of herself in the 
foyer. How she wished that one or two women 
that she hated would apply for engagements! 
The man, to whom dramatic art was a religion, 
saw a theatre that should be the expression of 
his life. He saw on how marvellous a basis this 
ideal theatre would be reared — due to a friend 

Digitized by 



who did not regard it as a means of mon^- 
making. As he realised the magnitude of his 
opportunity, Oliphant trembled, and wrung his 
hands in a prayer that he might be worthy of the 
power vested in him. 

She brought him back to the practical with a 

''What shall we put our salaries down at?'' 
she asked. 

"I haven't thought about it," he said. ''How 
much do you suggest?" 

"A hundred," she said promptly. 

"A hundred?" he echoed. "How a hundred?" 

"I'm getting twenty." 

"But I'm very far from getting eighty I How 
a hundred? In common gratitude we must put 
down our salaries at less than they would be 
anywhere else — ^not more! Remember that the 
capital is entirely Otho's; we risk nothing." 

" 'Less'?" she exclaimed; "when we do all the 

"My dear Blanche, we share the profits.'* 

"Yes, I know. Well, if we charge the same 
it's fair enough — I don't see why we should 
charge 'less.' If it weren't for us, there wouldn't 
he any profits." 

"And if it weren't for Otho's generosity, we 
shouldn't have a theatre. He is doing a very 

Digitized by 



wonderful thing — let's show that we appreciate 
it! There's not one man in a million who would 
start another in a theatre from pure good feeling. 
He gives us perfect liberty — ^he says: *You want 
a theatre; take one, and play whatever you like. 
If there's a loss I'll meet it.' It's an unpre- 
cedented oflFer. It isn't even as if he felt as — 
as we do. Otho is a fellow who likes literature 
and art everywhere excepting on the stage. If it 
weren't for us — and he ran a theatre at all — ^he'd 
do it for a lark and put up musical comedy. We 
can't treat him as if he were a speculator." 

"What did you mean," she said, "by telling 
him there couldn't be any fortune, any large 
income? Why not? They say WiUde made fifty 
thousand pounds out of Only Once More alone!" 

''Only Once More was a farce," said Oliphant; 
"we don't propose to play farce, do we? You 
wouldn't like that yourself?" 

"No, but plenty of dramas make money. Look 
what the Hendons made at the Mirror! That 
was drama. Look what Shedlock is doing at the 
Queen's with this last ghastly thing — I hear the 
people are eating it." 

He shivered. 

"I think you know," he said, "I'd rather be 
in engagements all my life than have a theatre 
and run it on Mr. Shedlock's lines. I'll produce 

Digitized by 



the best work, or none. And believe me, 
Blanche, you can get all you want by aiming 
at the highest — ^you will be much more prominent 
than if you content yoiurself with the second- 

"But I shan't get all I want if we're going to 
be poor all our lives,** she answered. "I do 
hope, Royce, you aren't going to fritter this 
chance away on fads?*' 

" Toor,* '* he repeated; "do you think we're 
poor? What more can you want? You've heaps 
of frocks; we've a pretty flat; you need never 
look twice at a five-pound note " 

"But all this," she interrupted impatiently, 
"will be poverty when we're in management 
We aren't going to live here, and have two people 
to lunch once a month, when we've our theatre. 
We shall have to give garden parties, and enter- 
tain on a big scale." 

He looked at her, surprised. 

"Why?" he said. "And how? What with?" 

"Yes, Vhat with?'— that's just it! If we don't 
make money, we can't do it. Our salaries, espe- 
cially if you're going to cut them down, won't 
be enough. One minute you say we share the 
profits, and the next you say there won't be 

"I don't think I said that — I certaitily trust 

Digitized by 



there will be. AU I said was that they wouldn't 
be great, at all events at the beginning. I'm 
not so eccentric that I'd rather avoid a profit 
than make one." 

"That's some comfort I" she returned. "Of 
course one wants to do good pieces! You don't 
suppose that I'm so eccentric that I'd prefer 
them bad, do you? Only no Brand, Royce — if 
you're going to open the campaign with Brand 
because you want to play the part, we shall be 

"Have you read it?" he inquired. 

"No, dear," she said, "but I tried to." 

Oliphant converted a sigh into a laugh. 

"Well," he replied, "I wasn't thinking of 
Brand. I'd like to work with you hand in hand, 
Blanche. Let's correct each other's mistakes — 
we both make them, no doubt. If you tend to 
one extreme, I suppose, I tend to the other. If 
we meet half-way " 

"It will be a sensible compromise!" she de- 
clared, smiling. 

His heart sank at the word; he had felt it com- 
ing when he paused, and the clang of it knelled 
in his soul. Was he talking of "compromise" in 
the first hour? No, he would not juggle with 
his conscience; he would be true to his faith! 
Though conquest abroad would be rendered ten 

Digitized by 



fames iiardcr bjr opposifaan in H 

stick to his coloars to the lul. HckMl 

for tUs apportnmtj', drained of it, Ubonred aid 

fired for iL God had sent it to hi^; and bf 

God's help he would jadifr the boon! 

Digitized by 



It was at last decided that the joint salary of 
the actor-manager and his wife should be fifty 
pounds. Otho was to be responsible for the rent, 
the cost of production, and all expenses ""behind" 
and "in front/' and he volunteered to spend 
seventy pounds a week in newspaper advertise- 
ments, though Oliphant had estimated them at 
less than sixty. With the work he was to have 
no concern. Profits were to be equally divided; 
and Oliphant, while stipulating that there should 
be no fees for cloak-rooms or programmes, un- 
dertook that the business-manager should ar- 
range for advertisements on the programmes, 
the commission on the hire of opera-glasses, and 
the sub-letting of the bars to the best advantage. 
These were all details of which Otho knew noth- 
ing, and of which Oliphant knew much less than 
he supposed. They pertained to the seamy side 
of a theatrical enterprise, and could not be 
ignored, however; indeed, the further the project 
progressed, the more complicated did the seamy 
side become. 


Digitized by 



But before it appeared to progress at all, Oli- 
phant was dismayed to see how time passed — 
how the weeks and months went by mitil the 
first night, never any nearer, seemed as elusive 
as a will-o'-the-wisp. The earliest idea had been 
to obtain a lease of the Embankment Theatre, 
but Otho, buoyant with champagne one night, 
had soared superior to the scheme just when the 
negotiations were assuming definite shape, and 
had declared that he wanted to take a bigger 
house and ''run the whole thing on first-class 
lines." Oliphant, who was hankering to have a 
poetic play of Sylvain Lacour's done into Eng- 
lish — a production demanding elaborate mise-en- 
scene — ^was only too ready to be convinced that 
the bolder course was the wiser; and the solicitor 
to the Embankment coming to terms tardily, 
found that he had come to terms too late. 

A bigger house was not immediately available; 
nor could Sylvain Lacour be brought to believe 
all at once that any translation could do justice 
to his genius. A visit to Paris, with the offer of 
an increased percentage of the receipts, per- 
suaded him that he had imderrated the resources 
of the English language; but the English poet 
on whom Oliphant had set his heart was tem- 
porarily incapacitated by gout, and there were, 
moreover, all kinds of anxieties and disappoint- 

Digitized by 



ments relative to the modem drama by which 
God and the State was to be followed. 

This God and the State appeared to be an 
admirable selection for the opening venture. 
Though Lacour might not be a great dramatic 
poet, he came as near to being one as did any 
writer living. The action of the play was laid 
on an imaginary island, and the period was de- 
scribed simply as "The Past," but the interest 
was for all lands and for all times. The central 
situation, too, was magnificent, and though it was 
a finer acting-scene for Blanche than for himself, 
Oliphant would have felt it a privilege merely to 
produce such a work. That its beauty should 
pass unnoticed looked to him impossible. 

Blanche, who was unable to read French, had 
heard enough to understand that she had a very 
emotional part, and she therefore forgave its 
being in verse. Her principal objection was that 
her costume must be simple and poor. Oliphant 
had his Court apart from her, his scenes of splen- 
dour; but the heroine, like the daughter of 
Triboulet, lived in a world contained by four 
walls, and only reached the gates of the palace, 
in the last act, to die. 

Meanwhile, she had other meditations. When 
they opened the theatre, they must have a larger 
drawing-room; she had determined that. A 

Digitized by 



garden possibly she might have to waive, but a 
larger drawing-room was essential It was not 
necessary to discuss the matter with Royce, but 
she utilised her morning strolls to interrogate 
various house-agents in the neighbourhood. On 
one occasion she met Otho in Victoria Street, 
and, as they proceeded towards the flat together, 
she told him where she had been. 

"I'm not talking to Royce about it," she ex- 
plained; "he has enough to think of; but it would 
be idiotic for us to remain where we are when 
we go into management. The more people we 
have home, and the more we visit, the better for 
all of us it will be. Did you know that?" 

"It never occurred to me, Mrs. Royce; of 
course you're quite right, though." 

"I'm so glad you agree with me," she said. 

"I always do, I think." 

"I think you do — ^it's very sweet of you! On 
the first night we must have a reception on the 
stage. I want you to bring everybody you can. 
Women as welll Women can be so useful 
When — oh when, Mr. Fairbaim — shall we know 
for sure? Oh, the suspense of it all! It's simply 

"Royce expects to settle for the Mayf air, you 
know, now," he said. "I do wish we could have 
got ahead more quickly for your sake." 

Digitized by 



"Oh I" she turned to him with swift depreca- 
tion; "please don't think me such a horrid un- 
grateful wretch as to grumble to you. Even 
if we had got the theatre, we couldn't open 
yet. Nobody can help it; and you — ^well, if I 
grumbled to you, I should deserve a shaking." 
Her eyes laughed in his for an instant. "I think 
I should ask you to give it to me I" 

The young man met her gaze with a touch of 
embarrassment that he did not care to define. 

"Well, I believe we shall have a huge triumph 
when the piece is produced," he declared. "Don't 
you? Of course I've no experience, and I oclj 
judge as an outsider, but when I read it, I was 
tremendously impressed." 

"How cruel of you to remind me of my appall- 
ing ignorance! I'm simply dying to read it, and 
I can't." 

"Oh," he said, "I forgot. Tell mel ShaU I 
make you a rough translation? Would you like 
me to?" 

"Oh, no," she exclaimed; "how can you pro- 
pose such a thing? Why, it would be most 
frightful trouble!" 

"It wouldn't be any trouble at all, done for 
you. I'll start it to-night." 

"Do you mean it? Really? But to-night? 
Aren't you going anywhere?" 

Digitized by 



"I wasn't going anywhere particular. It will 
be an immense pleasure to me, I assure yoiL 
Don't expect it for a few days; you know, being 
verse, it will take a little time, although I shall 
only aim at conveying the sense. I'll send it to 
you directly it's finished." 

"'You might spare half an hour more and bring 
it, mightn't you?" she suggested. 

"So I might," he said. "Then directly it's 
finished, I'll bring it to you." 

"And read it!" added Blanche gaily. "Oh, 
you must certainly read it. The adapter always 
reads the play r 

His cheeks grew pinker. "My dear Mrs. 
Royce, I've a fair amount of self-esteem — not to 
call it Vanity' — ^but I shouldn't Have the pluck 
to read it aloud to you to save my Ufe." 

She hung her head in mock abashment. 

"I shouldn't," he insisted; "honour bright f 

"Am I such a terrible person?" she inquired 

"No, but you're an actress, and you'd make 
game of me — not openly of course, but " 

The reproach in her face shamed him. 

"You can't mean that," she said; "you know 
better! Here we are 1 Come in and see RoyoeF' 

Oliphant was in an arm-chair before the fire, 
with The Stage in his hands. Blanche asked him 

Digitized by 



what he was doing with it, for it had been issued 
some d^s. She unpinned her hat, and Otho 
took her coat from her; he was conscious of a 
pleased interest as he watched her settling her 
hair before the glass. 

"I was looking down the ^Professional 
Cards/ " replied Oliphant; "I want to find out 
where Miss King is, if I can. I'd like to offer 
her an engagement when the time comes." 

"Miss King?" said Blanche. "Oh, yes, I know! 
But why — ^why this philanthropy?" 

"Who is Miss King?" asked Otho. He found 
that he was still stroking Blanche's muff, and 
he put it aside. "I think I'll have one of your 
cigarettes, Royce." 

"There they are, old man, behind you. Miss 
King is a very clever woman. ^Philanthropy'? 
There's no philanthropy about it. Where does 
^philanthropy' come in?" 

"It's a blessed word, anyhow," murmured 
Otho, inhaling — "like 'Mesopotamia.' " 

"And just as irrelevant," said Oliphant. "I 
want to offer her an engagement in the piece be- 
cause I don't think we could get anybody better." 

Blanche laughed shortly. 

"When did everyone else die?" she inquired. 
"How very absurd, Royce — 'couldn't get any- 
body better'! She's a provincial actress^ Mr. 

Digitized by 



Fairbaim, who fascinated my impressionable 
husband by the genius with which she did noth- 
ing at some mating. Engage her, my dear boy, 
by aU means, I'm sure I don't mind; but say it's 
because you like her, not because you couldn't 
get anybody better. I thought we were to have 
a West End company — ^in which case we could 
get a good many people better," 

"'Then I am going to engage her because I like 
her," answerd Oliphant. ""But for Otho's satis- 
faction, perhaps you'U permit me to repeat that 
she has talent; I shouldn't suggest casting her 
for *Astolaine' if I weren't sure of it," 

Otho puffed his cigarette a shade uncomfort- 

"I daresay she'll be very good," he observed, 
eager to say the right thing, and failing signally. 
" ^Astolaine' would appeal to any woman, I 
should say I" 

"What do you mean?" exclaimed Blanche. 
"Is *Astolaine' an important part, Royce?" 

" *Astolaine' is your sister. It's not a long 
part — it's the most important woman's part after 
yours, of course; in fact, it's the only important 
woman's part besides yours." 

She looked from one man to the other incredu- 

"And you're going to give it to a woman who 

Digitized by 



isn't known/' she demanded; "'to a woman who 
has never spoken twenty lines in town? What 
for? I don't think Mr. Fairbaim is so anxious 
to save five powids a week on the salary list; are 
you, Mr. Fairbaim?" 

"My dear Mrs. Royce," he stammered, "you 
can engage whom you like — anybody you both 
decide on — you know the arrangements have 
nothing to do with me at all." 

"We shan't save anything on the salary list," 
said Oliphant. "Look here, Otho, this woman is 
an artist; she'U play 'Astolaine' infinitely better 
than many women who have big reputations. 
The part is worth about ten pounds a week, and 
I propose to pay her ten pounds — always pre- 
suming that she rehearses it satisfactorily. Do 
you object?" 

"Z don't object," said Otho; "certainly not, 
old dhap. I don't object to anything." 

"Then if I can learn where she is, I'll write to 
her — or she may be in South Africa, or Australia, 
when she's wanted." 

"But there is no philanthropy about it?" cried 
Blanche with affected amusement. "You are 
going to offer her the best chance she has ever 
had, and the best salary, and there is no philan- 
thropy about it? Why, you couldn't do any 
more for the woman if you were in her debt I" 

Digitized by 



"I am in her debt,** said Oliphant; "I owe her 
the only comfort I received in the greatest grief 
of my life.** 

He had tmned pale; and Blanche also changed 
colom*, though she could only conjecture his 
meaning. Fairbaim wished he hadn't come in. 
It seemed to him that Royce had created a serious 
discussion out of a playful remonstrance. Doubt- 
less every married couple had dcnnestic differ- 
ences; but the illusion had existed that Oliphant 
and his wife were the one exception. 

When he went, it was with a Uttle dismay, and 
the matter recurred to him during the evening 
while he was at work on the translation. The 
translation was far from being a task to be 
knocked off lightly by a man of taste. He put 
down his pen more than once, and questioned 
if, with the ignorance of a bachelor, he was ex- 
aggerating the suggestiveness of the incident that 
he had witnessed. He decided that he was, for 
Mrs. Royce was too charming for any man to 
be unhappy with herl 

Oliphant had not continued his study of The 
Stage after his friend's departure, nor had 
Blanche revived the subject of the debate. A 
diversion had been effected by the entrance of 
Mr. and Mrs. EUerton. 

The novelist had evidently come with a pur- 

Digitized by 



pose; and though Oliphant had always under- 
stood that he had persistently refused invitations 
to write for the theatre, it transpired that in the 
course of the last ten years he had written several 
very literary dramas without any invitation at 

"It occurred to me," he said, "that your 
theatre will be conducted on my lines. Now I 
have the play for you. And I have brought 

"I should like to read it," answered Oliphant; 
"thanks. Of course you know our opening pro- 
duction is settled? We shall probably get the 
Mayf air from next September, and we open with 
Lacour's God and the State — ^we shall keep to 
the title: God and the Stated 

"I heard something about it the last time 
Blanche came; I didn't know you had actually 
settled. Not till next September? Well, you 
might do this second." 

"The next piece is fixed too. Still, if — if it*s 
suitable, we might do it third or fourth." 

"It's a lovely play, Royce," said Mrs. EUerton 
fervently; "I'm sm-e you'll like it. Blanche 
knows it — don't you, dear? — The Alienist/' 

"Oh yes," said Blanche, "is that it? Yes, I 
remember it." Her tone was not enthusiastic, 
and her mother repeated nervously: 

Digitized by 



"If you read it, Royce, I'm quite sure you'll 
like it. The hero's and heroine's parts are both 
beautiful They are really I" 

"The hero and heroine's," said the novelist 
"How often have I told you that, I wonder I" 

"Yes, dear," she murmured, "I'm so stupid; I 
must take care I They're both splendid, Royce! 
And the scene in the study, where he discovers 
the signs of insanity in his own wife, and you 
hear the dance-music of the children's quadrille 
in the next room, and the moonlight is streaming 
through the windows, is grand." 

"It sounds so," observed Mr. EUertcm, "as 
you describe it; 'the moonlight streaming 
through the windows' has a truly literary ring I 
Your mother-in-law, Royce, is an estimable 
woman ; and the Editor of Winsome Words, who 
will be one-and-twenty next birthday, has the 
highest opinion of her talent. His communica- 
tion this week is really most flattering. But if 
she told you the story of a work of Tolstoy^s, you 
might think you were listening to a synopsis of 
a penny novelette. It's very remarkable. She 
'sees through the medium of a temperament' — 
to quote Emile — and her temperament is of the 
novelette, novelettyl" 

This was one of the speeches — delivered with 
deliberation, and with all the points carefully 

Digitized by 



emphasised — ^which invariably filled Oliphant 
with a desire to kick the smiling and sarcastic 
gentleman; and ostentatiously ignoring him now, 
he addressed himself to the poor woman who 
was endeavoming to wear an easy smile. 

"What was the flattering letter. Mother?" he 

"Oh, nothing," she said. "Only a few lines 
with the cheque, and a request for two more 
stories. When are you coming to see us again?" 

"If you knew how busy I am!" he exclaimed 
apologetically. "How is Gertrude?" 

"Yes, how is Gertrude?" said Blanche; "we 
must really try to run out one afternoon this 
week I I haven't seen her for an age. And you 
know, Royce, weVe been awfully rude to Mrs. 
Le Mesurier — weVe never caUed there since that 
luncheon party. And there's Lady Liddington 
— ^we're neglecting everyone. What Lady Fleck 
will think of us I don't know. Do tell Gertie 
how busy we are. Mother 1 Why doesn't she 
come and see us? Although, as we're out so 
much, she'd better not come without hearing 
from me first!" 

"You are becoming more fashionable every 
day, I perceive," drawled Mr. EUerton. "The 
ffeted favourites of Fortime." 

"Don't!" she sighed languidly. "The bore it 

Digitized by 



is — if one could only be quiet I I long for a six- 
months holiday in a place where there are no 
visitors and no invitation cards. Shall I ever get 
it? • • . You're going to stay, aren't you?" 

She liked them to stay to dinner when they 
came. In this building, too, there was a restau- 
rant downstairs, and it gratified her to cavil in 
their presence at a cuisine which she knew they 
must be finding epicurean. As a rule she and 
Oliphant dined lightly, but when her family re- 
mained, she ordered four or five courses, and 
was chagrined if his refusal of chartreuse be- 
trayed that they did not have liqueurs every 

Oliphant repeated his assiu'ance that he would 
read The Alienist — ^which might be a good play 
handicapped by a bad title — and the author 
obviously considered that perusal implied accept- 
ance, for his manner became quite genial before 
the hour arrived for the husband and wife to 
betake themselves to their respective stages. 
When the promise was fulfiUed, however, Royce 
found that the drama possessed aU the faults of 
Mr. Mundey's; and he was for the first time pro- 
foundly thankful that he hadn't married a de- 
voted daughter. 

Alma, whom he had not seen since they parted 
at Brighton, was discovered to be on tour with 

Digitized by 



the Hamiltons, and having ascertained her 
whereabouts, he said to Blanche: 

"By the way, I see Miss King is at Rochdale 
this week. We grew rather heated the other day 
about nothing. Of course I don't want her in 
the theatre against your wishes, but if she proves 
as good as anybody else, I suppose youVe really 
nothing against the arrangement, have you?" 

Blanche shrugged her shoulders. 

"Why should I have?" she said, not un- 
amiably. "If she is good, engage her I" 

Oliphant wrote to Alma the same day, a letter, 
which gave him a glow of happiness. He told 
her that in all probability he and his wife would 
open the Mayfair towards the end of the follow- 
ing year, and that he hoped she would be free 
to come to them. The sentence in which he men- 
tioned the word "salary" was a little difficult to 
phrase, for while he was delighted to put money 
in her pocket, he hated to have to talk about it. 
It was the first time he had written to her, and 
he was surprised, when he had finished, to see 
that he had covered six pages. But there had 
been so much to say about the piece, and his cer- 
tainty that she would feel the part. 

Her reply was briefer, but he seemed to hear 
her speaking. "Can I say anything more than 
'Thank you with all my heart'?" she wrote. Yet 

Digitized by 



she had found more to say; and almost he could 
divine where she had paused with the sudden 
fear that her pen was running away with her. 

It was akeady close upon Christmas, and soon 
the Hamiltons' tour must be ending. He would 
have liked to ask Alma to call upon him and 
Blanche when she returned to town, but shrank 
now from speaking of her any more than he was 
compelled. When Christmas came, he momen- 
tarily entertained the idea of going to Burton 
Crescent, in the hope that she might be staging 
there again. But it would not be quite the thing! 
He dismissed the notion. 

The contract for the Mayfair was signed in 
January; and after that the poet's progress with 
Lacour's play, and the models of the scenes, and 
a score of matters demanding attention crowded 
thick upon one another's heels. 

With the knowledge that they would crowd 
more thickly still as the year advanced, Ohphant 
sometimes wondered what time the business cares 
of theatrical management would leave him to 
remember that he was an actor too. 

Digitized by 



Blanche had considered that the auditorium 
was shabby. She had stood between Otho and 
Oliphant in the stalls one morning, and plucked 
disconsolately at a loose piece of gimp on one of 
the chairs. On the way back to the flat, it had 
been apparent that she longed to see them newly 
upholstered before the theatre was opened, and 
when Otho suggested their renovation, the de- 
lighted smile that lit her face had answered him 
before she spoke. There had been a cheerful 
discussion about the material to be used, Oliphant 
and she holding different views. Otho inclined 
to the opinion that the more effective scheme 
would be the one advocated by Blanche, and 
thenceforward she had had further ideas on the 
subject daily. 

He spent eight hundred pounds in gratifying 
her whims — if he had had a long lease, he would 
have had the house redecorated — and behind the 
curtain the services of the best scenic artists had 
been sought, and the company boldly organised. 


Digitized by 



The salary list, indeed, was much higher than, 
the figure at which it had been originally esti- 
mated, but the dress-rehearsal amply justified 
the selections that had been made. Every part 
was rendered well, and even Blanche did not 
deny that Alma as "Astolaine" was very good. 

Otho echoed the pronouncement. He and 
Blanche sat in the rehabilitated stalls during the 
scenes in which she could escape from the stage, 
watching the progress of the rehearsal together. 
He found the evening very interesting; and 
although he was depressed when the thunder or 
lightning came at the wrong moments, the 
frenzy that such blunders begot, and the excited 
altercations that ensued, added a strong element 
of humour to his inexperience. There was a 
fascination, too, in sitting beside Blanche, swayed 
by the same interests, and exchanging criticisms 
with her. The strangeness of the woman's attire, 
her accentuated eyebrows, and the colour on her 
cheeks, all emphasised the novelty of the situa- 
tion; and once, in conunenting on the sleeves 
of her costume, when she took his hand and 
passed it down her arm, he felt a wave of emoticm 
which a few months earlier would have astonished 

Of a truth, Otho had awakened to the fact that 
he admired Blanche more than was desirable- 

Digitized by 



« not for his own peace, but for ethics. His mental 
state was so very undefined that it permitted 
him to assure himself that he was supersensitive 
and absurd to see anything wrong in it. Never- 
theless, perceiving that he was regarding his 
friend's wife somewhat diflPeriently from the way 
in which he would have wished to regard her, 
there had been one or two occasions on which he 
had not failed to be distressed. 

There was no room for distress in his mind, 
however, on the following night. He was in- 
fected by the fever that pervaded the menage in 
Green Street — where Blanche and Oliphant had 
obtained a furnished house. As he took his seat 
in his box, he was reminded of the sensations 
with which he had sometimes entered a grand- 
stand. Royce, who was looking tired and ill, 
had been in the theatre till late in the afternoon, 
and then driven home, to snatch a hasty meal, 
and endeavour to rest. The curtain rose on God 
and the State at eight o'clock, and by 8.30 a 
fashionable audience had assembled in the May- 
fair Theatre. The pit had ceased to cry "Sshl" 
and it was no longer necessary for people to keep 
rising in order that late-comers, who showed no 
consciousness of their discourtesy, might pass 

The actor-manager's nervousness was pain- 

Digitized by 



fully apparent during his first lines, but Blanche 
had her voice under better controL After Royce, 
the artist whose nervousness was most visible was 
Alma, passionately eager to justify Oliphant's 
faith in her. Otho fancied he could detect 
through his glasses that her lips trembled. 

The atmosphere seemed to gather spirit by 
degrees, and his craving for a strong whisky-and- 
soda and a cigarette grew less intense. But he 
remarked for the first time how cold at its best 
was his acquaintances' weU-bred attitude towards 
a theatrical performance; and then with an 
anxiety which he had never imagined that 
journalists could be capable of inspiring under 
his shirt-front, he glanced speculatively at the 
rows of Press men, and at a box opposite, where 
one critic sat alone. 

The curtain f eU at twenty minutes' past eleven, 
and a number of the fashionable audience that 
had come in late, trooped through the pass-door 
to the stage, where Blanche was a triumphant 
hostess. The play, they exclaimed, was a 
"dream," it was "sweet," it was "quite too de 
lightful upon their honour." Where the poetry 
had been spoken there was now a gush of in- 
sincere congratulation. Many of the smiling 
visitors thought the performance dreadfully dull, 
as did the majority of the pit and gallery, who 

Digitized by 



had coughed and shuffled with irritating fre- 
quency during some of the scenes. But in the 
flow of felicitation, six months was the shortest 
run that anybody permitted himself to prophesy. 

However, most of the notices could be caUed 
favourable to the production. Some insisted that 
Lacour was a lyric poet, and not a dramatist, 
limiting their approval to the way the work had 
been Englished, and the manner in which it was 
played; a few praised it unreservedly. There 
were plenty of excerpts to be made for advertis- 
ing purposes, "the good quotable line" being 
absent only from the opinions of the novices, who 
were learning syntax by "criticising" for the 
least important periodicals. It now remained to 
be seen how God and the State would be sup- 
ported by the public. 

Blanche and Otho were sanguine, though the 
receipts were not immediately all that could be 
wished; they whom misgivings already oppressed 
were Oliphant, and the woman whom the Press 
had agreed to describe as "an actress of con- 
spicuous ability, hitherto unknown to London." 
Every evening when he came oflP, in the first act, 
by the door at which she was waiting to make her 
earliest entrance. Alma looked an inquiry, and 
he stopped to answer it. But there was really 
no need for him to say that the house was bad 

Digitized by 



again — she could read it in his face; nor did it 
need words from her to tell him that she was the 
only person who understood how much he had at 

Between these two, whom life, which has no 
construction and no moral, had once thrown 
together, and speedily separated — ^who had met 
again by chance when the weaker cme was mar- 
ried, and been again divided by circumstances 
until the man's purpose brought the woman into 
his own theatre — ^there had always been a sym- 
pathy, which now grew stronger daily. Daily, 
Oliphant looked forward with greater eagerness 
to their next conversation, and remembered more 
vividly their preceding one. And meanwhile his 
home became less and less congenial Blandie 
with a well-appointed house in a fashionable 
quarter, did not allow her opportunities to be 
fettered by the theatre receipts. She had re- 
moved to Green Street in order to entertain^ and 
she was resolved to fulfil her intenticxu Her 
social functions seemed to him incessant, and 
from any one of them the actor-manager would 
joyfully have escaped to take his way to the 
lodgings in Bloomsbury that held Alma. He 
knew no more of her lodgings than their address, 
for she had not been asked to Green Street. 

That his wife had omitted to invite her was 

Digitized by 



due to indiflPerence, and not to any objection to 
Royce's conversations with Miss King. Their 
conversations, since he had proclaimed that they 
were such devoted friends, she found natural 
enough. Moreover, she would have been un- 
willing to do him the honour of evincing jealousy, 
unless there had been a scandal which compeUed 
her to insist that the other woman, whoever she 
might be, should leave the theatre. Blanche was 
too much elated to be jealous. True, the business 
remained bad, but her passion for paragraphs 
was now gratified abundantly, and at the worst, 
God and the State would prove a failure. Kirt- 
land's drama would be a hit, she supposed — ^his 
name alone was a draw — and then the failure 
would be retrieved. But she was sorry for Otho, 
because to him there hadn't been any benefit 
whatever from the venture. He was so "gentle- 
manly about the returns I" And really it was 
"something to be looked at again by a man who 
was in love with her I Of course there were 
plenty of men who tried to look as if they were — 
through monocles in every drawing-room. But 
that was only because she was on the stage, and 
with the ignorance of the outsider, they thought 
that all actresses were to be had. Otho was 
really in love with her. Poor fellow, how happy 
he would have been as her husband 1" 

Digitized by 



A wcxnan's reflections cannot progress so far 
as this without her manner altering^ towards the 
man; and it was ^en Blanche's manner first 
altered, that Otho perceived with pcMgnant self- 
reproach that he could no longer appl^ sahre to 
his ccxisdence by the terms ''siq>ersensitiTe'* and 
"'absurd.'* He was at this period strong enou^ 
to leave lAmdan, if there had been no reascHi for 
his remaining, but he was weak enough to find 
sufficient reascm in his interest in the Mayf air. 
Unable now to d»iy his sentiments, he to-day 
assuaged remorse by assuring himself that they 
didn't matter, because she would never know. 

That he must sustain a heavy loss by the initial 
production was speedily apparent, and it was 
decided that Kirtland's drama should be put into 
rehearsal when Crod and the State had been run- 
ning three weeks. Oliphant felt needlessly 
guilty, but he was confid^it that they were now 
about to rehearse a work which would attract aU 

Eirtland, being a dramatist with a literary 
reputation and an independence, had reached the 
point where he could afford to be courageous, 
and as he was a writer of brilliant ability, his 
courage had fascinating results. Already he had 
written two plays of psychological interest whidi 
had been great artistic successes, and in The 

Digitized by 



Average Man he had at last dared to say all he 
thought. Had he deliberately sat down to con- 
trovert Theophile Gautier's dictum that the 
theatre never becomes possessed of an idea until 
fiction has worn it threadbare, he could not have 
made a bolder experiment. To Oliphant it ap- 
peared to be one that would emancipate the Eng- 
lish stage and make an epoch. 

He had lent the manuscript to Alma, and he 
awaited her opinion more anxiously than he had 
asked for Otho's; far more anxiously than he 
had asked his wife's. 

"It's magnificent," she said. "I don't know 
if his view is right, but it's a view to hear, and to 
think about. And the dialogue — the grip of it I 
Did you say I was to play 'Mrs. Ivery'?" 

"I hope you like the part?" He believed that 
she would have played the heroine's better, but 
naturally Blanche must have that, though she 
would not be so subtle in it. 

She read his thought, as she read all he had. 
"I like it very much," she replied quickly. "I 
like my part, and I admire the play — it's worthy 
of the Dream Theatre. Oh, please Heaven, it 
will be all right ! I pray for it." 

"Our Dream Theatre has opened badly," he 

She nodded. "But it wiU come I" 

Digitized by 



"With this?" 
"I thmk so." 

"You need never go back to four or five 
pounds a week in the provinces anyhow 1" ex- 
claimed Oliphant, after a pause. 

"Ah, don't say ^anyhow* ! And I wasn't think- 
ing of myself when I said that I prayed." 

"I know. Only Fm glad, at least, that *' 

"You wiU have much more to be glad about 
But I thank you. YouVe done a great deal for 
me, Mr. Oliphant — I shall never forget it as long 
as I live." 

"I don*t want your thanks," he said; "I hate 
your thanks. If youVe talent, thank God for 
it — / didn't give it to you. I want your friend- 
ship; and every time you *thank' me you make 
me a stranger to you." 

When her cue came, Oliphant went down to 
his dressing-room, realising, as he had realised 
before, that he had uttered a lie. It was not her 
friendship that he wanted, but her love. He 
loved her. He loved the timbre of her voice, and 
the comprehension of her silence, and inanimate 
things that she had hallowed by her touch. He 
loved her with the mind that she had dominated 
and the soul that was rendered greater by his 
love. He loved her too truly ever to teU her the 
truth. Again a man believed that he could love 

Digitized by 



without the woman knowing it. If he had been 
free, and could have won her, triumphs would 
have been transfigured and failures robbed of 
their sting; if he had been free, he wovld have 
won her, and life could hold no more than that I 
Once happiness had been within his reach, and 
he had blundered by it. To-day he looked back, 
empty-handed, from a celibacy that had no 
rights. But though he could never toucl^^ her 
lips, she was his Ideal; and that he might be 
worthy to worship her he would always be faith- 
ful to his wife. Temptation was not avoiding 
him — it was in the front of his theatre often, and 
in his own house, and in the drawing-rooms of 
others; but to Oliphant it had seemed that to 
break his marriage-oath would make him guilty, 
not towards Blanche, not towards Grod, but 
towards Alma King. Lowered by an intrigue, 
he could not have met her eyes. Herself he 
would not have taken had she been willing to 
come to him — and he would not insult her by 
accepting anything less. 

Digitized by 



The Average Man was eulogised by those 
organs which embody the views of the critical 
for the delectation of the cultured; it was received 
with respect by the entire Press ; it was even com- 
mented on by the public. It did not, of course, 
excite the interest aroused by a football match, 
but its thesis was mentioned; there were a great 
many people in London who said "Fancy T* 

However, though Oliphant had continued to 
play it for two months, and hoped against hope, 
the drama was a financial failure, and this time 
Blanche was not a whit less anxious than he, 
for the rent, and the servants, and the cost of her 
luncheon and dinner parties, swelled the house- 
hold expenses to a sum which was by no means 
covered by her and Royce's salary. Besides 
being anxious, she was incensed, for the less 
ardent of the newspapers had questioned whether 
the subject was one "calculated to attract the 
general playgoer, who, as we have often insisted, 
seeks before all things to be amused," etc., and 
she blamed Royce bitterly for his lack of judg- 


Digitized by 



ment. She might have foreseen the issue, she 
felt: she had obtained a theatre for him, and now 
his idiosyncrasies were going to ruin theml 

Otho had denied himself Green Street for 
more than a fortnight when he came one morning 
in response to a note from her. It was not acci- 
dental that he found her alone, for she had ap- 
pointed the morning. 

"I'm frightfully worried," she declared when 
he had lighted a cigarette. "Don't I look dread- 
ful? Don't I? I feel a hundred. You know 
you must be firm! You promised me you would 
be. I told you six weeks ago that this thing was 
a frost. Now Royce is considering a play that's 
simply fore-doomed, and he says he has talked 
to you about it. You should object 1 You must 
tell him that you want your theatre to pay." 

"Royce wants it to pay, you know," he said 
uneasily; "I — I can't very well take an attitude 

that looks like It's nobody's fault up to the 

present, is it ? The pieces have been good enough. 
Heaven knows I" 

"I've warned you," she sighed; "I can't do any 
more. But, I tell you, I feel simply miserable 
when I think what you've lost — ^if it hadn't been 
for me we shouldn't have had the theatre I" 

"Oh, don't talk hke that; we shall have a big 
success directly, and " 

Digitized by 



"Never/* she said emphatically. "BeKeve me, 
Mr. Fairbaim, 'never' 1 It's a fact. Unless 
Royce is checked — ^if you don't make a stand — 
we shall have one failure after another. I see it. 
It will mean thousands to you, and it will mean — 
weU, I don't know what it will mean to us! The 
Bankruptcy Court I suppose 1 We can't go cm 
like this long." 

"I was afraid your affairs couldn't be alto- 
gether roseate; I've been thinking about it. I — 
if — of course if there has been bad judgment, it's 
been as much mine as Royce's, and — ^and it's cmly 
right that I should share the responsibility. I 
must have a chat with him. There needn't be 
any duns, Mrs. Royce." 

"Do you think I'd let Royce borrow money 
from you?" she exclaimed. 'TTes, I know, you'd 
lend it gladly — you'd do anything for us I be- 
lieve ! but I wouldn't let him take it. And besides 
I couldn't if I wanted to." 

"Why? How do you mean you ^couldn't*?" 

"Because Royce doesn't quite know the state 
we are in. And I don't want to tell him." 

"It needn't bother him if he can put things 
straight. It would be only a loan. When the 
success does come " 

"I didn't mean because he'd be bothered," she 
said; "at least, not only that. You see / insisted 

Digitized by 



on this house, and asked the people here, and 
made the debts. I did it for the best; the policy 
was right enough — if the business had been 
decent, there wouldn't have been any trouble: 
but Fm the *culpritM I don't want Royce to 
turn round on me — as he would — and reproach 
me. That would be the last straw I" 

"Oh," cried Otho, "how could he reproach you? 
He wouldn't I" 

Her eyebrows rose. "Wouldn't he? But it 
isn't a question of money. I only want you to 
exert your authority, to have the theatre con- 
ducted on proper lines. There's a piece now in 
Paris just produced — a piece of Reybaud's; 
there's a notice of it in The Era this week. It 
could be bought, it could be adapted, and might 
make a fortune for us. But no I Royce wants 
a 'masterpiece' that is going to bring us to the 
workhouse instead. Oh, it drives me mad to 
think about it I" 

"Why not speak to him of Reybaud's piece?" 
suggested Otho. "I couldn't urge it much be- 
cause I'm no judge; but you — ^you might pro- 
pose it, and use your influence with Royce." 

" 'Influence'?" she echoed. "Do you really 
imagine that I've any influence with Royce?" 
She laughed. "Why, my dear boy, I've no more 

Digitized by 



influence over Royce than I have over the Prime 
Minister 1" 

"Do you mean that " He looked at her 

incredulously. "Do you mean that your advice 
— your request — ^would have no weight with him? 
Wouldn't he pay any attention to it?" 

"Certainly not," she said. She met tlie young 
man's startled eyes for some seconds signifi- 
cantly. Then in a quiet voice, and without lower- 
ing her gaze, she added: "Royce and I have been 
strangers for more than two years." 

In the silence that followed Otho stared 
dizzily at the fire. The suddenness with which 
she had leapt the limits of conventional parlance 
gave him a sensation resembling fright, and he 
could think of no words for answer. At last he 
stammered with an effort: 

"Of course I'll try to do what you wish, with 
pleasure. I'm awfully grieved to hear that 
things are wrong; I always thought that you and 
he were so happy together." 

She smiled faintly, a little to one side, her 
nether-lip indented by her teeth. 

"I'm the loneliest woman in the world." 

The compassion on his face was delicious to 
her, and, watching him, she was sincerely sorry 
for herself. Words now thronged his mind only 
too insistently, and he sat torn between the desire 

Digitized by 



to tell her how deeply he sympathised with her, 
and the knowledge that if he obeyed the impulse, 
he would surely say something that would make 
it impossible for him to take Oliphant's hand 
any more. 

"Don't look hke that," she murmured. "It 
doesn't matter." 

"What can I say?" he exclaimed. "It's so 
hard for a man to show a woman whom he 
mustn't — who is no relation to him that he's 
sorry for herl" 

"You needn't say anything — I know you're 

"It wasn't two years ago that we had our first 
talk about the theatre," he said after another 

"No," she said, "I know." 

"And you were then ?" 

She nodded. "But I was fond of him still and 
ambitious for him. A woman doesn't become 
indifferent all at once." 

His eyes filled. She seemed to him all that 
was noble and strong to endure. 

"Ah, don't I Ah, SiUy Billy," she said half 
playfully, half tenderly, "you mustn'tr 

Otho turned aside, and ht another cigarette 
with fingers that trembled a little* 

Digitized by 



"YouVe cut me up horribly," he muttered. "I 
wish to God I could do something for youP 

"You have, with your friendship. I don't 
know anybody I could have talked to like this 
but you." 

"We are friends, aren't we?" he asked. **We 
always shaU be?" 

"I'm sure we shaU!" 

"Well, let me do what I suggested just now," 
he said eagerly. "I don't mean to let me speak 
to Royce about it, but to arrange it with you. 
It isn't much, but I shan't feel so infernally use- 
less. If you'll only give me an idea of the sum, 
I'll post a cheque this afternoon. Will you? Let 
me put an end to your money worries, do!" 

He had fulfilled a hope that had awakened in 
her ten minutes ago. It had then occurred to 
her that the loan made to herself privately would 
dispose of the difficulties, and spare her the un- 
pleasantness of owning their full extent to 
Oliphant; but now, while her perception of the 
circumstances remained quite as acute, sentiment 
forbade her to take advantage of the young 
man's love for her. She would have done it ten, 
five, two minutes ago — but the tears had come 
into his eyes about her. She shook her head. 

And his persuasions failed to move her out- 
wardly, though inwardly she wavered of ten^ and 

Digitized by 



hoped he would believe her obdurate before she 
lost her footing on these imaccustomed heights. 
When he had gone, regretful, she thought of him 
with admiration for having raised her so much 
in her self-esteem. 

To complete Oliphant's unhappinesSi and to 
darken his outlook, it had needed only that he 
should be required to stultify the expressed pur- 
pose for which a theatre had been taken. By 
Blanche's arguments that they could not be 
popular socially unless the receipts enabled them 
to entertain, he had been uninfluenced — ^he did 
not seek social popularity; and between reaping 
the profit that would content her, and justifying 
Fairbaim's experiment, there was a wide differ- 
ence. He had been firm in the face of their 
increasing liabilities, merely praying that their 
expenditure might in future be reduced; he had 
been as resolute as he could be as an actor- 
manager with a backer. But when the backer 
joined forces with the actor-manager's wife, 
confidence collapsed. 

Nevertheless the artist did not succumb im- 
mediately; he proposed Shakespeare as a com- 
promise. In London, if not in the provinces, 
he urged, Shakespeare could be made to pay, 
ameliorated by elaborate scenery, as a powder 
by a tablespoonful of jam. Shakespeare might 

Digitized by 



prove successful, and Shakespeare would be art 
But Blanche did not want to play Shakespeare, 
and she harped on Felix Reybaud's JLa Curieuse, 
the latest product of a playwright who was 
sincere in nothing but his desire to tickle the 
public taste; a piece which owed its success in 
Paris, not to its characterisation, not to any 
insight into life, but to a gratuitous immorality 
and 'le doigte du dramatin-ge." 

Oliphant shrank from confessing this new 
trouble to Alma; he felt that it would be soon 
enough to speak of defeat when he had agreed 
to surrender. But for the first time Blanche 
suspected that she was encouraging his views. 
Umbrage had already been taken at several of 
the Press notices, which had intimated that 
''Miss King's acting had the rare and indefinable 
quality of intellectuality,'* the word "rare" being 
foimd an insult by implication* OriginaUy one 
critic had said it; but there had poured in a 
multitude of cuttings from newspapers published 
in almost every county in the kin^om, and as 
some of the obscurer journals inserted the Ixm- 
don criticisms verbatim as the opinions of im- 
aginary Correspondents, the manageress had had 
the anoyance of reading the objectionable sen- 
tence more than once. The suspicion now 
aroused in her increased the disfavour with whidi 

Digitized by 



she had begun to regard Miss King. And as 
a cuhninating offence, Ahna chanced, on the 
evening of the discussion, to receive some ap- 
plause at a point where hitherto there had not 
been any. The scene was one between her and 
Blanche, who stood for two or three seconds at 
a disadvantage. It was resentfully referred to 
directly they were together in the wings. 

"What was the meaning of that roimd. Miss 
King? You've never had a hand there till to- 

"I was surprised myself," answered Alma. 
"But I think I felt the lines more than usual." 

"Well, the next time you're going to feel them 
perhaps you'll let me knowl" said Blanche 
sharply. "I don't want to be put out by your 
applause again 1" 

But here irritation was too complex to evapo- 
rate in a rebuke. To herself she said that since 
King's influence was supporting Royce in his 
folly, she shouldn't remain at the Mayfair. Mo- 
mentarily she questioned if she was mistaking 
the nature of the influence. But no; she did not 
think thatl Royce was deceiving her doubtless, 
but not with King; and the credit, she should 
imagine, was the woman's. 

Creditable, or not, however, she did not want 
her in the company, and she trusted that La 

Digitized by 



Curieuse, if they secured it, would prove to con- 
tain no part for her. The argument about the 
piece was repeated in Green Street the following 
afternoon. Otho was lunching there, and Oli- 
phant again dwelt upon his wish to revive a 
Shakespearian play. 

"But Mrs. Royce doesn't care for the idea," 
said Otho. "What is your objection to Rcy- 
baud? I always understood that he was first- 

**Well, of course he is!" Blanche exclaimed. 
**We mayn't be able to get the thing if we try — 
there'll be twenty people after it. Reybaud? 
If Reybaud hasn't a great reputation, I'm an 
amateur, Royce, I know nothing about the stage. 
Who in Paris has, then?" 

"It depends what you mean by 'reputation,' " 
said Oliphant wearily. "His name is very widely 
known; the crowd think him a very clever man. 
If that is 'reputation,' you're quite right." 

"Well, I should certainly say it toasr she 
answered. She glanced at Otho: "Wouldn't 

"I must admit, old chap," he murmured, "that 
I think you're inclined to be hypercriticaL I'm 
fairly well-read, and I flatter myself I'm not 
devoid of taste, but Reybaud's plays are quite 
good enough for me." 

Digitized by 



Oliphant drummed his fingers restlessly on the 
cloth. "'Do you ask as much from the theatre 
as you do from your books?" he returned. "Does 
Reybaud satisfy you in the library?" 

"IVe never read him. But IVe seen two or 
three of his pieces, and| I'm bound to say, en- 
joyed them." 

"And anyhow," said Blanche, "it isn't a ques- 
tion of reading in the library; it isn't a question 
whether he's good, bad, or indifferent — ^the ques- 
tion is whether he succeeds." 

Otho was silent, and Oliphant looked at him 

"Is that your view too?" he asked. "It wasn't 
the view you held when we took the theatre. You 
knew what my aim was from the beginning. 
Heaven knows you can't be sorrier than I am 
for the way things have gone so far, but it was 
never imderstood between us that if fine work 
spelt failure, I was to play rubbish to retrieve it. 
I don't want a theatre to play rubbish; I'd rather 
have none than be in management to give the 
lie to intentions I've expressed all my life." 
He turned to Blanche. "If you don't care for 
nine-tenths of Shakespeare, surely there's one 
character that attracts you? Is there no choice 
between the best modem work and F61ix Rey- 

Digitized by 



Otho replied for her, with affected lightness. 

"'Dear old man/' he said, fidgeting with his 
coffee spoon, ""aren't you taking the matter too 
seriously? If we — er — if we made a mistake 
when we opened the house — ^and I suppose we 
did make a mistake — ^it seems to me that we 
should make a bigger one still if we were ashamed 
to acknowledge it. When all is said, the theatre 
is the theatre, it's a place of entertainment; aren't 
you rather apt to forget that? What is it 
Austin Dobson says? — 

Tamassus' peaks still catch the sun; 

But why, O lyric brother ! 
Why build a pulpit on the one, 

A platform on the other?' 

I think it appUes, Royce." 

Oiiphant had turned very pale, and the last 
vestige of hope sank from his heart He nodded 

"Yes," he said; "perhaps the pulpit is too 
strong in me. But circumstances are stronger, 
aren't they? We won't argue any more; we'll 
try to get La Curieuse/^ 

Now, when he was beaten, he longed for 
Alma's consolation, even while he winced at the 
thought of avowing his decision to her. If she 
knew all, she would be compassionate; but he 
could not disclose all, and he trembled lest she 

Digitized by 



should find the obvious insufficient to exonerate 
him. She had once told him that he was weak — 
he had remembered that since; perhaps she would 
view him only as a renegade clinging to power 
at the price of his faith? 

But her gaze was clearer than he guessed. She 
saw that he had mated his antithesis; and 
partially she imderstood. Her pity for him had 
never been so earnest, nor the love that had 
been bom in her so deep. Only now she knew 
how deep it was, this love that yearned to burst 
from her lips and eyes — knew that if he had 
come to her ashamed, a coward and apostate 
self -condemned, she would have loved him still. 

And Blanche was twice triumphant: for per- 
sistent effort obtained the EngUsh rights of La 
Curieuse, and there was no character in the piece 
that even Oliphant could assert would suit Miss 
King. As a manageress Blanche was annoyed 
at this period only by her father, who on hearing 
that the policy of the theatre was to be changed, 
had developed an imexpected tone, and finally 
appeared to have on hand a large assortment of 
rejected manuscripts ranging from melodrama 
to musical comedy. She did not read them, but 
he wrote urgent letters to her on the subject, and 
importimed her in her drawing-room, imtil she 
was so angered that she would have produced in 

Digitized by 



preference the weakest of the plays that were 
submitted to the theatre daily by unknown men. 

The adaptation of Reybaud's work had been 
entrusted to Campion, with the assurance that 
it would be put into rehearsal as speedily as the 
parts could be type-written. Stimulated by such 
startling propinquity to fees — ^he was still await- 
ing the production of a comedy that had been 
accepted five years ago — ^he completed the task 
in ten days, and the run of The Average Man, 
which was entailing a loss every week, drew to a 

Alma had not regretted to learn that her en- 
gagement at the Mayfair must terminate. In- 
deed, she had already asked herself if she could 
remain there even were she desired to do so. 
Although she honoured Royce too greatly to 
think he would confess his love, honoured her- 
self too much to fear she would betray her own, 
the very hopelessness with which she' contem- 
plated meeting him no more showed her that their 
meetings shoidd cease. After she left his theatre 
their lines would lie apart; she might remain in 
London — ^that was to be expected now — and yet 
rarely speak to him again. She would see him 
from the stalls sometimes, and read his notices, 
and pray for his success; but it was very seldom 
that they would meet each other in the streets. 

Digitized by 



Oliphant realised that too. He felt it as he 
talked to her on the last night, hungering to 
take her hand before the moment of adieu. 
From the stage, which he had just left, the 
dialogue of the fourth act reached them, and 
when the curtain fell, it would fall upon the end 
of more than the piece. To-night he still was 
playing literatiu*e, and stood beside the woman 
he loved — ^to-morrow the theatre would be void 
of both. 

"So it is nearly over," he said. "Tor the 
play, I remember, pleased not the million; 'twas 
caviare to the general.' Are you going to wish 
me *luck' before you go?" For the first time 
he made no effort to conceal his humiliation. 

"I wish it now," she answered with the ghost 
of a smile. "I hope The Modem Eve will draw 
all London. You ought to feel confident: Cam- 
pion writes very smartly, and I hear that Rey- 
baud has never done anything more — ^more strik- 
ing than La Curieuse.'* 

"Then you congratulate me? . . . Hark! 
they're a good audience to-night, aren't they? 
It has never gone so well." 

"It has always gone well — ^with the people 
who came," she murmured. 

"With the people who came," repeated Oli- 
phant. He turned to her passionately. **Why/' 

Digitized by 



he exclaimed, "why have I failed? You know 
IVe failed. You don't say so, but you know it, 
and you know that I know it. Why? It wasn't 
to play La Curieuse that I dreamed of manage- 
ment; we didn't think of Reybaud when we 
talked in Brighton — and outside the Museum 
that day. I hate this theatre! IVe lost another 
man's money, and my own hope. My God! 
I'm going to produce the w6rst example of 
the worst school, and I haven't the right to 

"Look forward!" she cried; "don't look back! 
No, you have not failed. Hark again! — that is 
applause for fine work. Re-read the criticisms! 
— there is a Press that has imderstood and sup- 
ported you from the first. Your theatre is too 
big, your expenses are too large; here you must 
depend upon the 'million.' One day you will 
fight for your belief again; and with a smaller 
house you'll conquer yet." 

He looked away from her, with haggard eyes, 
at the imattainable. Yes, with her he would 
have conquered yet; but the futiwe that he 
could foresee held nothing. With her, thought 
would have been exalted, and purpose fortified 
by the grandeur of her own souL He knew it, 
as — in the mightiness of his longing for her — ^he 
knew that this defeat wringing his heart to-night 

Digitized by 



would have been welcome if for one moment it 
had yielded him the comfort of her kiss. 

Now from the stage and the mouth of his wife, 
came the cue for his return to the scene ; and when 
he spoke to Alma next, the last night had ended, 
and she wore her coat and hat. She had taken 
leave of Blanche and him together before she 
went to her dressing-room, but he had hastened 
from his, as she had divined he would, to clasp 
her hand again. It was the single weakness of 
which she had been guilty that her hand was bare. 

They stood for a minute in the whitewashed 
passage, face to face. 

"Are you wrapped up enough? Won't you 
be cold?" 

"Oh, this stuflF is very thick," she said, "and 
it's warmly lined besides." 

"You ought to turn up the collar," he mur- 
mured; "you've nothing roimd your throat." 

"No, I'm quite aU right; really!" 

"You'll have a cab? It's snowing hard, some- 
body said." 

"Yes, I've sent for one — I expect it's here 


"Well, I — I wish you all the success and happi- 
ness you can ask for yourself. But you know 
that, don't you?" 

"Yes, I'm sure of it. And — ^you'll never say 

Digitized by 



youVe lost your hope any more, will you? Good- 

"Good-night,*' he said. . . • "I wish you'd 
turn your collar up." 

"There I Now I'm quite safe," she answered, 

And in this fashion the man and woman be- 
tween whom not a word of love had yet been 
spoken said good-bye. 

Digitized by 



''To speak in more favourable terms of The 
Modem Eve would be practically to discredit the 
enterprise and judgment of a manager who had 
inspired the hope that " 

Yesl Oliphant had foreseen that. He was 
reading a notice cut from one of the journals 
to which Alma had referred when she said there 
was a Press that had supported him. He picked 
up another: 

"It may not be astonishing that The Average 
Man should be foUowed by The Inquisitive 
Woman, but it is distressing. In Paris I was 
merely bored by La Curieuse, but at the Mayf air 
I was pained. I hasten to say that my pain 
was by no means shared by the audience, who 
evidently found in M. Reybaud's work, judi- 
ciously watered by Mr. Campion, a pabulum to 
their taste. Nevertheless " 

There was a third slip lying beside him — ^the 
tone was the same, a tone of irony and regret. 
From these organs he had derived gleams of 


Digitized by 



consolation hitherto, and he winced this morning 
as if three friends had turned their faces from 
him in the street. 

But the piece had been produced a week, and 
was playing to exceUent business. The booking 
was increasing daily, and there was every promise 
that a great financial success would be achieved. 
When the box-oflBce sheets were so agreeable to 
peruse, he would be held unreasonable to be de- 
pressed by three columns of type I 

In a month from the date of the production 
Blanche's caprice had been abundantly justified. 
Boards announcing that the house was full were 
displayed outside the Mayf air every evening, and 
in the presence of such good f ortime his attitude 
exasperated her. That he should comport him- 
self as if they had had another failure, when 
they had the longest advertisement in The Daily 
Telegraph, and a demand for boxes, and queues 
at the pit and gallery-doors hours before they 
opened, was an annoyance which not even the 
additional frequency of her entertainments could 
assuage. He was truly an impossible person I 
She felt it more and more. An ordinary man 
would have owned that his judgment had been 
at fault, and thanked her; but did her husband? 
So far from acknowledging his error, he didn't 
seem to recognise that it had been demonstrated. 

Digitized by 



If it had not been for Otho, she would have been 
miserable; his was the only real companionship 
that she had. And then Royce remonstrated, 
and called her improvident because she gave 
parties I In truth — ^the reflection occurred to 
her one afternoon as she mused by the fire — in 
truth she was taking a very noble course in doing 
so; it was not every woman in hrer position who 
would have striven to interest herself in social 
gaieties when a young man with thousands a year 
was dying of love for her I 

Did she care for him seriously? She pursed 
her lips; well, not as she had cared for Royce 
once, of course — ^that had been a headstrong 
passion; she would never have married Otho 
Fairbairn if he had been an actor in his third 
London engagement. StiU she did like him. 
As he was, she would marry him like a shot if 
she were free. Good Lord, how happy she'd have 
been with him I "Happy"? What a word for 
the life she might have led! The jeweDery he 
would have bought for her; and the horses and 
carriages! — she'd have had a Russian sable rug 
in the victoria, and — and she would have had a 
theatre too — ^he would have let her do anything 
she pleased! . . . Her foot was resting on the 
fender, and she admired it pensively. Royce 
wouldn't despair; but that would be the end of 

Digitized by 



her friendship with the Flecks and Oh no, 

no, she was a virtuous woman I 

She had found occasion to remind herself of 
it; and, though she did not realise the fact, the 
thought that had given her pause was that if 
she sinned she would lose Society. 

The hundredth night of The Modem Eve was 
reached without any diminution of the receipts, 
and Oliphant rejoiced like a prisoner who ap- 
proaches release. Now that the money that had 
been lost by the earlier plays would be recovered, 
he would be free to teU Fairbaim that he wished 
to withdraw from the theatre. Management on 
the lines he was required to travel henceforward 
was a prospect before which he quailed; and since 
the remainder of the lease could be transferred 
easily enough, there would be no cause for com- 
plaint on either side. That the adaptation would 
continue to attract the public until the middle 
of July — that its run in London would have 
made the Mayf air a profitable speculation — ^there 
could be no doubt. Therefore he would not 
even take the detested piece "out" in the autiunnl 
That Otho should not suflFer by his hatred of it, 
he would accept the best of the numerous ofiPers 
for the provincial rights. 

When Blanche inquired whether an autumn 
tour was being arranged, he told her "no," 

Digitized by 



**Well, isn't it time we got some dates?" she 
askecL "What have we got an acting-manager 
for? I tell you that man is no use — ^he looks very 
nice, but that's aU he thinks about 1 I hear, when 
everybody was coming out the other evening, he 
stood at the top of the stairs saying good-night 
to three girls he'd passed in. That sort of thing 
lets the show down, you know I It's very bad — 
people think that half the house is paper." 

OUphant hesitated nervously. "Look here, 
Blanche," he said, "I don't want to go out with 
the piece, that's why nothing is being done. If 
Otho gets his money back, I want to drop The 
Modem Eve, and the Mayf air too. Let us take 
engagements again; I can't go on this way." 

"You want to drop the Mayf air?" she stam- 
mered, paling. "Do you mean it?" 

"I can't go onl" he repeated. "Oh, for 
Heaven's sake try to see it from my point of 
view for once; don't let's have another argument! 
I'm ashamed — that's the word; I couldn't resign 
myself to playing this sort of stuff; I couldn't!" 

She looked at him speechlessly, her blue eyes 
ablaze with wrath. 

"I think you're a lunatic," she said hoarsely, 
at last. "My God! I think you're a lunatic; 
I do, on my soul! You'd hke to ruin yourself 
and everybody connected with you." 

Digitized by 


"If Otho gets his money back 

"Oh, don't talk to me about getting his money 
backl" she exclaimed. "Whom has he got to 
thank for it, you or me? Would you ever have 
got it back for him? Never in this world I And 
when I proposed the piece which by your own 
showing has rescued you, rescued you from the 
overwhelming burden of a West End theatre, 
you had the insolence to sneer at me in front of 
him I" 

"I 'sneered' at you? When?" 

"You know very well whenl When we were 
discussing the piece at lunch that day. You 
know you did! Your whole tone was an insult 
— ^making out that I was uneducated and had 
no taste. You tried to make me look as small as 
you could. But he didn't think any more of you 
for it, I could seel" 

"What you say is absolutely untrue. That 
we shall never feel the same way about the stage 
as long as we live I'm quite sure, but it can't be 
necessary to quarrel about it. As to Otho's hav- 
ing to thank you for our present success, that's 
a fact that I've admitted often." 

"You haven't!" she cried; "and youWe had 
cause to thank me a damned sight more than 
Otho, if you knew itl" Her rage had mastered 

Digitized by 



"I don't understand you," said Oliphant 
sternly; "you can explain yourself when you 
can talk like a lady." 

"I don't wish to talk at alll . . . If you'd like 
to know what I mean, I told him that you ought 
to have a theatre — I knew you never would 1 
And he quite agreed with me; that's why he 
made you the oflFer." 

"I see," said Oliphant; "that was it? Yes, 
I suppose I have had cause to thank you. I'd 
rather you hadn't done it, though it may sound 
ungrateful to say so. Well, we have had our 
theatre, and it hasn't fulfiUed my hopes. Can't 
we recognise the fact calmly?" 

"It hasn't fulfilled your hopes? We are coin- 
ing money, and it hasn't fulfiUed Oh I oh 

no, please don't say any more I" She clasped her 
head. "I am at my limit! It's quite understood 
— ^you are going to give it up. That's enough 1" 

She did not speak again during the day, and 
a perfunctory remark that he oflFered at dinner 
feU still-bom. At seven o'clock they drove to 
the Mayfair, where the audience heard the first 
words that she had addressed to him for nine 
hours. Their love-scenes, however, "went" as 
weD as usual, and when he led her before the 
curtain, and she smiled td his bow, the suggestion 
of connubial felicity was beautiful to behold. 

Digitized by 



But though she was resolved not to reopen 
the subject until the time came when it could 
no longer be ignored, Blanche could dwell on 
little else. When Otho presented himself, per- 
turbed, for an explanation, she again rendered 
a mental tribute to his sympathy. Her hope 
that Oliphant would recant was of the slightest 
— his second thoughts would doubtless be as be- 
sotted as his first I Dismay engulfed her, and 
the ignominy of abdication poisoned her very 

Her reveries were now more frequent than 
before. The silence between her and Oliphant 
had been broken, but her grievance was manifest 
in her accents, and their speech was very con- 
strained. She had no heart to visit, and he lacked 
heart to sit at home viewing her resentment 
Hence she was often alone in the Green Street 
drawing-room, and — as the reverberation of his 
announcement subsided — to enhven her solitude 
she once or twice returned with curious eyes to 
the edge of the abyss from which two months 
ago she had started back afraid. She could now 
look down without turning dizzy quite so soon. 
She repeated that there would be no more cards 
like these lying in a tray on her table. "Yes, 
she would be making a great sacrifice for himr' 
Of course — ^just for pastime imagining that she 

Digitized by 



did do such a thing — after the divorce he would 
marry her; there was no doubt about that. 
People did forget in time — especially when one 
was an actress. And really, if they didn't plenty 
of women would regard a vast fortune as ample 
compensation. She could not do so herself; but 
plenty of women would! Plenty of women 
would consider that they were quite justified in 
leaving a husband like Roycel What joy had 
she in her life? If her dear little baby had been 
spared to her, she would never have been 
tempted. Ah, her sweet little baby, how devoted 
she had been to him I When a man was indiflFer- 
ent to his wife, it wasn't astonishing if her crav- 
ing for afiPection proved too great for her 
strength. This tenderness that had been awak- 
ened in her was natural. As Royce had said 
when he proposed to her, to be an artist a woman 
must love. 

Just because she had attempted to luU despair 
for five minutes by the writing of a little para- 
graph I If he had had human instincts, he would 
have pitied her the more for that pathetic eflFort. 
And he was to allow himself aU latitude, while 
she was denied consolation? Plenty of women 
would laugh at her as a fool! Of course he was 
false to her — ^how could she question it even for 

Digitized by 



an instant? He was false to her with — with 
Ahna King! 

This new idea offered her comfort. In the 
days that f oUowed she strove to believe it. Alma 
was now playing at the FaU MaU, and Oliphant 
had not seen her since she left their company, 
but Blanche wished to persuade herself that they 
were guilty. Vague accusations of infidelity no 
longer satisfied her, and to excuse her own in- 
creased temptation, she sought to point definitely 
to the woman. 

The Modem Eve achieved its destiny, and as 
the business dropped and the general exodus 
from town commenced, it was decided that in 
another fortnight Oliphant's reign at the May- 
fair should cease. 

Blanche accepted his intimation of the fact 
with the fewest words possible, and rewarded 
herself for their sparsity by many comments to 
Otho. Passionately as she had exulted in the 
possession of a theatre, it seemed to her in this 
final fortnight that she had never appreciated it 
enough. Each time the door-keeper touched his 
cap to her as she entered, she suffered a pang, 
in picturing him saluting another manageress 
soon. The star-room where she dressed stung 
her with the reminder that where she played her 
next part the star-room would be another's. The 

Digitized by 



respect of the vilified acting-manager with the 
returns was a sword-thrust, as she realised how 
speedily she would have declined to the insignifi- 
cance of a salary. 

And as the days shpped past, Otho Fairbaim 
suflFered no less acutely. She would lose power, 
and he would lose pretext. With the closure of 
the Mayfair, the ostensible motive for his dalli- 
ance in London would be removed; and he stood 
face to face with the truth. Now he must either 
go away and resign himself to misery, or realise 
that he was too violently in love with his friend's 
wife to leave her. He decided to go away. 

He determined the matter in the small hours 
while he lay praying for sleep, or his shaving- 
water; and in the afternoon when the sun shone, 
and he drifted to Green Street, he felt ennobled 
by his resolution. 

Blanche, as was so often the case latterly, was 
sipping tea by herself. It was the half -hour he 
always found most charming. The shaded room 
was restful after the glare of the Park, and the 
flowers looked cooler within doors, and sweeter. 
Their fragrance too could be detected here; as 
he greeted her he felt the perfume of the roses 
she was wearing, roses that he saw had been 
chosen from the basket that he had sent. 

"I wondered if you would come round," she 

Digitized by 



said. "'Thanks ever so much for those — ^they're 
simply exquisite." 

"Have you been out?" he asked, dropping into 
an arm-chair. 

"No; it's too hot WeD? Tea?" 

"Thanks. Weill *Our story approaches the 
end'? It's extraordinary the hold a theatre takes 
on one; I begin to feel as if I'd been interested 
in the Mayf air all my life. I shall be lost when 
we close." 

She sighed. "And ir 

**WeIl, you'll be on the stage — ^it won't be 
quite the same thing; J shall only be able to sit 
in the stalls. You can't imagine how I shall miss 
the pass-door and the wings. At least, you can, 
because you're an actress, but a good many 
people would think it affectation." 

"I suppose the wings somewhere might still be 
possible?" she said. "But I understand what 
you mean, of course. You don't really think it 
wiU be a greater change for you than me, though? 
You can always run a theatre if you want to — 
that isn't difficult. To me — oh, my dear boy, the 
change wiD be frightful! Now that you've given 
me a taste for management I shaU simply hate 
an engagement; I shall loathe it I" 

He looked his commiseration, and she nodded 

Digitized by 



"It will be hideous. To have to go to rehearsal 
whether I'm in the humour or not, and be dictated 
to by the stage-manager, and have my pet busi- 
ness altered to improve somebody else's part, 

and Oh, you haven't an ideal When a 

woman who has once been her own manageress 
takes an engagement again, I can teU you she 
feels the diflFerence hereJ^ She put her hand to 
her heart. 

"Even now, you know," said Otho after a 
slight pause, "it isn't too late, if Royce is willing 
to go on. Nothing is settled." 

"He won't; don't entertain such an idea for 
a moment — ^he won't! No, Royce is relieved — 
I can assure you he is relieved — ^to think that 
there are only four more nights before we finish." 

"It's a thousand pities," he murmured; "I'm 
sorrier than I can say. He's been consistent, of 

course; one can't deny that, but WeD, I'm 

bound to admit he seems to me to be playing 
the fooL" 

"'Consistent'! Oh, let's talk about some- 
thing else!" 

"He explained from the beginning the course 
he meant to pursue. Don't fancy I'm making 
excuses for him, but it was understood that he'd 
only conduct a theatre on certain lines." 

Blanche smiled. 

Digitized by 



"But it was, Mrs. Roycel" 

"Oh, I know aU that I" she said, "but do you 
suppose if " She rose impatiently. 

"Do I suppose if — what?" 

"Never mind; it doesn't matter 1" 

"TeD me. What were you going to say?" 

"I was going to say 'do you suppose we should 
be leaving the theatre if Miss King had remained 
in it?' " She looked round into his startled face. 
"That's alll" 

"Miss King?" He stared up at her. 

"Are you going to pretend you didn't know? 
You needn't be considerate — ^my eyes have been 
open a long while. As soon as he got a theatre, 
he brought her into it. And when a piece that 
meant a fortime was to be had, he opposed it 
because there was no part in it for her; and be- 
cause he was furious when you took my side and 
he was obliged to let her go, he revenged himself 
on me by giving the theatre up." 

"Good GodI . . . Oh no?" 

"I don't say that the theatre managed in an 
ordinary way would ever have made him happy 
— I know it wouldn't; but he'd never have gone 
to such a length as this if he thought I was blind 
enough to have that woman back in it. So mad 
as that he's not I It was plain enough surely? 
Everybody in the company must have talked. 

Digitized by 



In two months' time you'll see them both playing 
at the same house." Her arms fell impotently. 
"And so shaD ir 

Unconsciously she had taken the pose that 
she had adopted in Oliphant's play, when as 
"Maud" she imagined that "Mrs. Vaughan" 
was "Clement's" mistress. Her expression was 
the same. Now, as then, her sensibilities were 
profoundly stirred by a situation which her 
judgment knew to be fictitious. She believed 
this thing only while she wished to believe it, 
and hitherto the belief had been assuasive. But 
impulse had carried her before an "audience" — 
and now she sounded the depths; the humiliation 
was revealed, and her voice broke. 

"I can't believe it," he said huskily; "I'D swear 
I've never had a suspicion 1 You must be 

"Heavens! Do you think I look for these 
things — ^that I'm jealous?" Her laugh was 
bitter. "I only care because I'm a woman and 
I've pride to be hurt; for Royce I care no more 
than I do for that chair. If I weren't a fool, I 
suppose I shouldn't care at all, but . . • Ah, 
don't worry about me — I'm used to it by 

She turned aside, and leant her elbows on the 
mantelpiece, her head between her closed hands. 

Digitized by 



There was a long silence, while he struggled to 
remain in his seat. 

"I'm frightfuDy sorry for you," he stammered, 

Her face was hidden from him, but her little 
nods were gratefvd, and pathetic. He stood 
combating the temptation to touch her — ^his 
sympathy yearned to touch her, while his pru- 
dence warned him to resist. His hand moved 
towards her twice, and was twice caught back. 
Then he drew hers down. 

*T)on't — I can't bear to see you miserable," 
he said. 

Her fingers thanked him, and now he perceived 
that she was crying. 

"If you knew how hard my life is I" she fal- 

She raised her eyes to him; and the next mo- 
ment he had kissed her. 

But the words that poured from him were not 
the words demanded by her mood. He up- 
braided himself, and vowed that he would never 
see her again. She did not want to pity his 
self-reproaches — she wanted him to silence hers. 
He was her penitent, and she would have had 
him her master. She was begged to understand 
his remorse, and she wanted to be swept from 
hesitation by his love. As she listened, the out- 

Digitized by 



look grew strangely dark, the gloom of it chilled 
her, and she felt forlorn. A sense of hopelessness 
overwhelmed her — and she realised that she had 

He went from her abased. The kiss and his 
avowal had rendered him contemptible ; and that 
she had told him she was fond of him seemed to 
increase his enormity. He wished she had not 
told him she was fond of him — ^the impression 
left by the afternoon was graver because she had 
said that. But if she had been anybody's wife 
but 01iphant*sl Terrible that a woman's per- 
fection could be patent to all the world except 
her husband I Her view of the retirement from 
the Mayfair as an act of retaliation was far- 
fetched, preposterous, but though she was mis- 
taken there, the main charge might be true. 
What wonder that she was unhappy, poor girl? 
He regretted the visit passionately; he had de- 
termined to avoid her, and he was given cause 
to feel ashamed after all. That was cruel I And 
now, too, he would be ten times more wretched 
apart from her. It would even be wrong to take 
leave of her — or for them to meet in a year's time 
— knowing what they knew. And Oliphantl 
how distressing to have to meet Oliphant again I 

He went from her abased, and Blanche sat 
motionless, with wide eyes. Never had she per- 

Digitized by 



mitted herself to recognise her fancies as expec- 
tation, but they were buried in their real name. 
How their companionship had sustained her their 
death displayed. She knew now that she had 
desired to gain the existence to which Otho Fair- 
bairn was the key; knew that, though this sudden 
sensation of blankness would not last, she would 
remember and repine as long as she lived — ^would 
think of the might-have-been when she had lost 
her prettiness and her figure, and the Lady 
Flecks of the period were oblivious of an elderly 
actress whose only recommendation was her 
virtue. Then to her despondence arose the ghost 
of her hope; and in sight of it she demanded 
why the ambition of a woman like herself should 
be frustrated by so weak a man. Man? He was 
a boy in everything but his age! Should she 
resign herself to being balked by his scruples? 

She went to the Mayf air that evening wonder- 
ing if she would see him; but Otho was not there. 
Nor did he appear on the next, though he had 
been compelled to accept a dinner invitation to 
support his oath. On the penultimate night he 
failed; but he compromised with resolution by 
entering the theatre only for a few minutes to 
mention that he was going to Trouville. 

"You'll come to Green Street first?'* she asked. 

He had intended to make his adieux to her and 

Digitized by 



Oliphant in the office on the morrow, but now 
he hesitated. 

"Do you think I had better go to the house?" 
he said. 

Her face hardened, and she made no reply 
for a moment. 

"No!" she said coldly. "Good-bye. I hope 
it will be a pleasant change, Mr. Fairbaim." 

"For God's sake don't be cruel," he muttered. 
"I'm suffering enough!" 

She had moved apart from him, and he fol- 
lowed her humbly. 

"Blanche I Are you angry with me?'* 

" *Angry' ?" she echoed, pausing. "What right 
have I to be *angry' with you? You'll do as you 
please, of course." 

"May I come Sunday for half an hour?" 

"Sunday I shall be out," she said. • • • "If 
you wish to, come to-morrow afternoon." 

She returned to the dressing-room, her pulses 
quickened by suspense. To-morrow he would 
again tell her how miserable he was; but would 
he implore her to make him happy? It would 
be then or never! If he would but beg her to 
leave London with him — ^if he would only say 
the words I She would become his wife, and their 
elopement would be forgotten. The prospect 

Digitized by 



dizzied her and swam before her gaze; she quiv- 
ered in ecmtemplating the position. 

There was no sign of agitation, however, in 
the greeting that he was accorded ; its tranquillity 
relieved him. Her manner had neither the 
resentment that he had winced at on the pre- 
vious evening, nor the implication that he had 
vaguely dreaded. She spoke of Trouville, and 
asked him if it was '"nice." There was a casino, 
she supposed? Every French watering-place 
had a casino, hadn't it? And one played a game 
called "'Little Horses," which was the Monte 
Carlo gamble adapted for the nursery, and had 
ices and flirtations on a terrace overlooking the 
sea? How he would enjoy himself I It must be 
delicious, especially after dinner in the moon- 

He felt that it would indeed be delicious were 
she beside him there, but merely answered that 
it would bore him to death. Her small talk 
hurt him as speedily as it was meant to do, 
although before he came he had perceived in 
the subject of Trouville some promise of safety. 
She was paler than usual, he noted; there were 
shadows beneath her eyes, and in spite of her 
attempt at animation, her tone, her pose itself, 
had a certain lassitude. 

It was now for him to sustain her courageous 

Digitized by 



effort, for she was silent. In the silence her face 
looked wearier still. 

"Where — ^which theatre do you think you will 
go to next?" he said, when the pause had grown 
too long. 

"How can I tell?" she murmured. *Why?" 

"I should have liked to know what you were 
going to do — I shan't be in London for a long 
while; I don't expect I shall remain in Europe." 

"You are going to travel? Where — in im- 
possible places? Have you made your plans?" 

He shook his head. 

"You mean to go just where impulse takes 
you? How lovely I It must be simply perfect 
to wander about the world like that." 

"Terfecf?" said he. "You know that I'm 
going because I must I You know very well I 
shall be wretched 1" 

She did not answer, but her lips trembled. 
When they had trembled, she averted her face. 

"Don'* you know it?" 

"Perhaps you think you will. You'll soon 
forget me. A man can forget so easily." 

Then the scene of which she had been confi- 
dent was enacted. He told her all that she had 
known he was going to tell her, omitting only 
the petition that she was eager to hear. Though 
his devotion dishonoured him, though his goddess 

Digitized by 



was day, this ordeal was the severest that he 
had been called upon to bear; to part from her 
tortured him; and when he cried that he ^^adored" 
her, the word was no more than the literal ex- 
pression of a fact. Her suspense began to be 
tinged by impatience, even by misgiving. 

She tore her hands from him, and sprang to 
her feet. 

**Why did you come into my life?" she ex- 
claimed; "I could have borne the rest!" 

As she was clasped, she was momentarily san- 
guine; but expectation faded, and the coldness 
of dismay sank through her limbs again. 

"Say good-bye to mel" he urged; "for Gk)d's 
sake, let me say it while I can!" 

Her eyes fastened on him, but he released her, 
and was going. She watched him cross the room. 
All that she tiiirsted for was receding — affluence, 
splendour, everything that could make life worth 
living was in this man's holdl In another second 
the darkness would have fallen, and would lift 
no more. She would not, she could not, let him 
go I She uttered a great cry, and threw herself 
sobbing on the couch. 

"I Ve only you in the world V* she gasped, ding- 
ing to him. 

Then suddenly — ^as she looked up into his white 
face — she faltered. Morality, convention, the 

Digitized by 



restraining instinct, awoke and terrified her in 
spite of herself. She strove to stifle it, to harden 
herself against it, she battled with it as a woman 
may battle with a physical weakness. Her mind 
whirled. Why did he give her time to reflect? 
A moment more, and horror would have con- 
quered her! Why didn't he succumb? • • • 

Fairbaim moved towards the window, and the 
clock ticked away a minute while he gazed fixedly 
at the street. A hansom was crawling along the 
hot road, and he observed the minutias of a han- 
som for the first time. When the hansom was 
out of sight he gradually became aware that he 
was thinking. He was conscious of a dull wonder 
at his own apathy. His most distinguishable 
feeling was regret, but neither remorse nor pas- 
sion was acute; he felt dreary and sad. The 
clock ticked; and he stood realising the position. 
Well, he would make her his wife as soon as 
possible. . . . Oliphant would despise him — ^not 
more than he deserved. Perhaps Oliphant would 
marry Miss King after the divorce? If they 
cared for each other much, one might be sure he 
would — and they'd be happy. None the less, 
they would always condemn him, Otho Fairbaim, 
as a scoundrel . • • But his worst sin was 
towards the angel who had sacrificed her reputa* 

Digitized by 



ticm for love of him I At this point he looked 
round at her, f urtiyely, ashamed. 

The woman whom he had yet to miderstand 
lay back upon the sofa with her eyes closed — 
thinking toa 

Digitized by 


Digitized by 


Digitized by 


Digitized by 


Digitized by 


Digitized by 


Digitized by